Great Britain were defeated 88-65 by France in their second game at EuroBasket on Thursday, falling away amid a second half barrage from Les Bleus.
With Belgium defeating Germany 77-73 in overtime, earlier, and Ukraine – the only 2-0 side – keeping Israel winless with a 74-67 win, Group A remains wide open.
However, with Joe Prunty’s side facing a vital game with the Belgians next on Friday, they must hope any scars will quickly heal.
They can take positives from spells where they held their own. Every member of the French starting line-up is a current or former NBA player and, at the outset, the gulf in class appeared extravagant.
GB came back but faded, and in the end, with Nicolas Batum hitting a game-high 17 points, and Tony Parker adding 16, superiority was confirmed.
“France deserves a lot of credit for the things they did,” Prunty said. “The first and third quarter were pretty big keys. That really set the tone. We did match that level of intensity that we needed to and the game became very free flowing.
“That really benefitted them. We have to give them credit and we now move into the next one against Belgium which will be a very difficult test as well.”
Although Kyle Johnson hit an early three which briefly put the British in front, Mickael Gelabale capped a 9-0 French run which forced Prunty to call a timeout with 6:04 left in first.
Hommes contre enfants. But Dan Clark – with a team-best 16 – emerged to prove one giant point to his former employers who had declared him unfit to take the court. He hit two threes in the first quarter and another pair in the second and it factored heavily in a revival act after the French had bolted into a 26-11 advantage.
Myles Hesson and Clark keyed a 9-0 run in the second that brought Britain back from the dead and another three from the London-born forward capped a 14-3 burst which forced Vincent Collet into a timeout with 5:32 left in the second.
More warnings imparted, no doubt. And, with his words ringing, the French embarked on a 12-5 burst, which propelled them towards a 45-37 half-time lead.
GB’s defence was porous, France’s strength inside too hard to handle. But they were clinging on, despite some inconsistent guard play. Andrew Lawrence was bench after a torrid opening spell, Ogo Adegboye was swarmed, and it was left to Devon van Oostrum, winning his 25th cap, to step up.
The baby of the team started inauspiciously, throwing up a wild prayer and then handing the ball over in what was less a steal than a gift. But he settled, composed himself and showed glimpses of a talent that might be realised.
France, eventually, had more of the proven variety. Inside and out, they had too much and Prunty’s men could not match. A 14-3 run left British hopes in tatters and, 63-41 behind, it became about how little, not simply how.
There were more fine cameos from van Oostrum, a neat pass to Eric Boateng, some drives into the paint. He ended with 13 points.
“We got a very good performance out of him,” praised Prunty. “He was very solid through second quarter and the whole game. He made good decisions with the ball. He had a couple of turnovers but he was trying to make the right plays and get the ball where it needed to be.
“But he’s played well in practice, prior to this and he was great the other night in terms of his approach with the limited minutes he had. And he came out and provided us with a little bit of a spark, particularly in the second quarter.”
With both second units pitted against each other, the gulf shrunk a little from its peak of 71-48 at the close of the third period.
But this was a cause long lost. It was never anticipated that the French would be a source of victory. And there are now four more games for GB to help themselves and chase a spot in the second round.
“It was a tough game for us,” said Clark. “They got off to a very good start. They jumped us from the start. We were able to pull it back at half-time but they were able to pull away in the third quarter and hold onto that lead.
“We weren’t capable of maintaining our concentration levels and our physically for the whole 40 minutes and against a team like that, you have to do it. That was the main reason for the big difference. But we just have to forget about this game and move on.”
Starters: Lawrence, Johnson, Sullivan, Murray, Boateng. GB and France both practiced with a full squad this morning. The GB coaching staff watched Germany v Belgium before their game. Devon van Oostrum makes his 25th appearance.
EuroBasket, 1st Round, Group A (Ljubljana). Great Britain 65 France 88, Ukraine 74 Israel 67, Germany 73 Belgium 77 OT.
Group B: Montenegro 72 Latvia 73, Serbia 77 Bosnia 67, Lithuania 75 Macedonia 67.
Group C: Croatia 77 Georgia 76, Poland 68 Czech Rep 69, Spain 69 Slovenia 78.
Group D: Finland 81 Sweden 60, Italy 90 Turkey 75, Greece 80 Russia 71.
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