Review by Christos T. Panagopoulos –
France romped to a dominant 80:66 win over Lithuania in Sunday’s final of EuroBasket 2013 in Ljubljana to take their first European title in history.
Third time lucky proved a charm for France. After stumbling in the finals twice before, including two years ago in Lithuania, France took the extra step on Sunday to life the EuroBasket trophy.
Led by small forward Nicolas Batum, who scored 17 points and grabbed 6 rebounds and a dominant defence, the French put a mixed performance in the earlier rounds behind them to overwhelm Lithuania.
Starting slow out of the gates, France put on a show in the second quarter to outscore Lithuania 31-12, as Batum poured in eight quick points and the defence slowed Lithuania’s offensive stars.
The momentum shift was abrupt and devastating for Lithuania, who saw a three-point lead from the quarter turned into a double digit deficit. To add to the misery, French point guard Antoine Diot beat the buzzer with a prayer from well behind the 3-point line to extend France’s lead to 16 at the half.
With the title in sight, France continued to control the match with a dominant rebounding display in the second half to increase its lead to as much as 22 points (64:42) late in the third quarter. By the end of the third quarter France outrebounded Lithuania 30-13.
Even a poor shooting night for star point guard Tony Parker (12 points on 6/17 of shooting), the most valuable player of the tournament, could not derail the French train, as his team mates picked up the slack to turn in the most balanced scoring performance for France at the championships.
While Batum was on fire in the first half, centre Boris Diaw led French scorers in the second with 13 points. Lithuania was led by forward Linas Kleiza, whose 20 points on 8/12 shooting were one of the few bright spots in a losing effort.
While taking their eighth medal at European Championships, the win is the first ever for France and comes only two years after they were beaten by Spain in the final of EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania.
“This title is for everybody: French sport, French basketball, all the players here. It really is a huge accomplishment,” said Parker, who singled out the defence as the key to the win.
“This is something special for French basketball,” French coach Vincent Collet said after the match. He praised the team effort: “We grew as a team from the quarter-finals on. We played a good quarter final, a great second half in the semis and a great match today.”
Lithuanian coach Jonas Kazlauskas agreed, saying “France played excellent basketball”. “I can’t say the same for us, but France played well on both sides of the ball and it was very difficult.”
Spain defeated Croatia 92:66 earlier in the day to take third place. The home team, Slovenia, finished fifth after yesterday’s win over Ukraine.