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Tokyo Olympics: Basketball - France goes through to the finals after a hard-fought victory!

France win a nail-biting thriller vs Slovenia to qualify for the finals

The incredible block by Nicolas Batum that sealed the game for France (Sources: FIBA Twitter)

The incredible block by Nicolas Batum that sealed the game for France (Sources: FIBA Twitter)


Ananth Narasimman

Updated: 5 Aug 2021 3:47 PM GMT

What a day for Olympics Basketball, initially we saw a masterclass in sniping from Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, mind-blowing trick shots from Patty Mills, and now we witnessed one of the best Individual performances in Olympic history. Luka Doncic put up a massive triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists, despite dealing with an apparent injury that forced him to pass more often than shoot. Slovenia came into the semifinals in red-hot form, averaging the highest points for a European team in the Olympics while going on an unbeaten 17 game run with Luka on the court.

They faced tough opposition as Rudy Gobert and France came into the tie as one of the favourites in the tournament due to their devastating interior presence dominated by rangy forwards such as Batum, Fournier and Gobert. Their superior interior game opened up the offense for France as they were able to pass the ball into the forwards and let them make a play or kick it out to open shooters as the defense collapses. Fournier, De Colo, Batum and other stars did a brilliant job with spacing and knocking down clutch jumpers when they needed it the most.

The match started with an intense back and forth where both teams traded shots. Luka was able to control the tempo of the game as he made shots and created for others with ease. France relied on one of their lesser-known stars in De Colo to get them going. The 34-year-old Fenerbache star was the top scorer on the night with 25 points in a court consisting of elite talents such as Rudy Gobert and Luka Doncic. France managed to stay in the game throughout the first half despite Slovenia knocking down clutch shots.
The third quarter changed the tie as France came out and bulldozed their way through the Slovenian defense while playing old school bully ball. Rudy Gobert had a statement dunk in this period, which pumped his teammates up. Unfortunately, Luka started wearing out and looked uncomfortable during this quarter and left all the heavy lifting to his teammates while being the key facilitator. This move allowed France to leave him open on the perimeter while shutting the paint with 'Stifle Tower' Gobert gobbling up rebounds and protecting the paint with authority. Luka shied away from his usual stepback jumpers, which were automatic as he dealt with discomfort and pain. The French made the most of it as they cruised to a 71-65 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Slovenia picked up the slack in the fourth quarter as they came out blazing hot, hitting clutch 3s and mid-range jumpers to take the lead and win the game. Klemen Prepelic took over and made a couple of big shots that his team sorely needed without their star player being able to function at his best. France relied on Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert's combined experience to hold off a stubborn Slovenian attack. Fournier ended the night with a huge 23 point game, making big-time plays to bail his team out. The last word and the biggest moment of the game fell to Nicolas Batum as the forward used his experience and athleticism to block a layup from Prepelic. The shot was surely going to be the game-winner, and Batum blocked it with incredible timing and precision to close the game out and help his team get into the finals to face Team USA.

France now has a chance to go all the way and cause an upset for the ages as they face a relatively weaker United States team compared to the previous teams. The United States still have legends like Damian Lillard, who is due for a big game and Kevin Durant, who can take over the game at a moments notice. France will have to play at a high level up until the last whistle to have a chance of beating the mighty Americans. Rudy Gobert's interior presence is going to be critical as team USA have no answer for him. On the other end, they will have to try their best to make it tough on Dame and KD as there is no stopping them. We are in for a cracker of a tie.
Slovenia will have another chance to wrap up their historic campaign on a positive note when they play Australia for the bronze medal with the hope that Luka will be fit and okay by then.

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