France-Tunisia Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated August 03, 2012
After opening the Olympics with a lopsided loss to the gold-medal favorite, France appears to have found its form. The French look for a third consecutive victory in group play Saturday against winless Tunisia in London. France (2-1) looked overwhelmed at times while putting forth an overall lackluster effort during its 98-71 loss to the United States on Saturday. That result seemed to provide a wake-up call for the French, who went on to a surprise 71-64 win over reigning bronze medalist Argentina on Tuesday. Despite trailing by four at halftime Thursday, France rolled out of the break to outscore Lithuania 20-9 in the third quarter of an 82-74 victory in Group A play. San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker scored 27 points and Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers added 21 as the French shot 53.4 percent, including 6 for 12 from 3-point range. "We pulled off a good win against Argentina and we have managed to beat Lithuania, now we must remain concentrated," Batum told fiba.com. "We know we must stay focused for the last two games to finish the work and set up a good position coming into the quarterfinals." After facing Tunisia (0-3) for the first time, France concludes group play against Nigeria (1-2) on Monday. Though Tunisia is giving up 87.3 points per game and averaging 18.3 turnovers, the French are not about to take anything for granted as they try to reach the podium for the first time since winning silver in Sydney in 2000. In order to achieve that feat, France likely needs more big performances, especially at the offensive end, from Parker (18.0 points per game) and Batum (14.0 ppg). Parker is feeling more comfortable on the court as he continues to wear goggles following eye surgery as a result of an injury suffered during a brawl outside a New York City nightclub involving pop star Chris Brown and rapper Drake. "(Thursday was) the first game we've had (Parker and Batum) at this level," French coach Vincent Collet said. "Tony told me that his legs were feeling a lot better now." While Parker and Batum have played well, they are not the only ones contributing to the country's cause. Boris Diaw, Parker's teammate in San Antonio, had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds Thursday while Ronny Turiaf of the Los Angeles Clippers pulled down 10 boards versus Lithuania. France did suffer a setback Thursday when 6-foot-8 forward Florent Pietrus suffered a broken nose that could sideline him for the rest of the tournament. The French, who held the Lithuanians to 28.6 percent shooting (6 for 21) from beyond the arc and outrebounded them 38-29, could be in for another big effort against Tunisia. Making their first Olympic appearance, the Tunisians opened the Summer Games with a 60-56 defeat to Nigeria, but have been outscored 202-132 in losses to the United States and Argentina. Tunisia led by 14 after the first quarter and was tied at halftime before absorbing a 92-69 loss Thursday to an Argentina team also filled with NBA talent. "We started well but we couldn't keep up," said Tunisia's Salah Mejri, who scored a team-high 19 points. "That is the difference between top sides full of experience internationals and NBA players. Most of our players play in Tunisia. But we are catching up."
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