Back on the court of miracles: two days after their unexpected qualification for the last four of Eurobasket-2022, French basketball players find Friday (5:15 p.m.) on the Berlin floor an unexpected guest, Poland, faller of Slovenia Luka Doncic.
“We went through a mouse hole twice,” admits coach Vincent Collet. Namely by two extensions, against Turkey in the eighth then Italy in the quarter, snatched each time thanks to two missed free throws, in turn those of Cedis Osman then Simone Fontecchio. While they could push France to four points with twelve and sixteen seconds to play.
A “cardiac” or even “horrible in front of the TV to live” Euro, as captain Nicolas Batum released on Twitter, resting this summer like Nando De Colo, the other absentee scoring among the Olympic vice-champions.
“We don’t see it like the viewers for whom it must be even more unbreathable, sympathizes the coach. We are lucky to be in the action.”
– “Happy to be alive” –
His Blues, hoisted into the last four of a major tournament for the third time in a row, are “happy to be there, to be alive and to have the opportunity to go to the final”, testifies Vincent Collet, varnished also by the table of the final phase.
Because nothing goes as planned in this Eurobasket, violent for the thrilling players of France, but fatal to the superstars of the NBA. After the elimination of Serbia by Nikola Jokic and Greece by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Slovenia were also knocked down by Poland, semi-finalists for the first time since 1971.
“We would have been happy to type them ourselves, assures Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, known as “TLC”. It would have been all the more a source of pride.”
Vincent Collet, while describing the Poles who “worried him more than anything else in the first half with the level they had (up to 23 points ahead of Slovenia, editor’s note)”, recognizes that ” the opportunity is great”.
“We do not play against an unplayable team, he concedes in an understatement. They can beat us, but we can beat them too.”
Provided that the Blues limit the damage of their two usual weaknesses, the catastrophic third quarter and the loss of balls, of which they are the European champions (nearly 16 per game on average).
“When we arrived, we knew we were capable of beating anyone but also of losing against anyone”, comments Rudy Gobert. The observation remains valid.
– A team “not comparable” to that of the Games –
According to “TLC”, the team “is not comparable” to that Olympic vice-champion in Tokyo. “Our 18 loss of balls against Italy, it’s not something we did last year, he recalls. We allow opposing teams to gain confidence in each game.”
“Are we less strong (than at the Olympics)? I don’t know. Can we do better? Surely,” hopes the winger.
“There are a lot of things we could work on, but it’s utopian to think we can do it in 24 hours,” says Vincent Collet, fatalistic. “When we send the ball into the stands on uncontested direct passes (like captain Evan Fournier against Turkey or TLC against Italy, editor’s note), rather than working, we can just hope that we stop doing it. “
Sigh or satisfaction, despite the balls lost in shambles, Evan Fournier’s band displays the best defense of the four semi-finalists (excluding extra time) with barely more than 76 points conceded on average despite a brutal group B (Germany, Slovenia, Lithuania).
“We haven’t yet made our benchmark match in this tournament, the coach is impatient. We have to hurry because there are only two left.”