The French men’s national basketball team, led by Parker, churned out an impressive 83-74 win over Canada to book the final ticket in the 2016 Rio Olympics Sunday evening at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
Parker shot a blistering 9-for-14 from the field en route to a 26 point outing. Backcourt-mate Nando De Colo filled-up the stat sheet in scoring 22 points, grabbing five boards, dishing out three dimes, and had three steals.
France and Canada showcased contrasting styles of play in the first quarter, with Les Bleus utilizing half-court sets while the Road Warriors used their mastery of running in transition. Behind the exploits of Corey Joseph, Tristan Thompson, and Melvin Ejim, the Canadians posted a five-point, 20-15 lead midway. But their European counterparts, with Nando De Colo, Boris Diaw, and Thomas Heurtel picking up their rhythm, gained momentum and pulled a 15-5 scoring spree to end the frame in their favor, 30-25.
Both squads played excellent defense against each other in the second frame, with the score still locked at 32-27 approaching the halfway mark, thus slowing the game’s pace. It favored Canada as they made it a 34-all affair with less than three minutes remaining, with Ejim and Joseph conspiring on the offensive end. But the Frenchmen emulated their first quarter finish as they chipped in five more points behind the 1-2 punch of Diaw and Parker to conclude the first half in France’s favor, 39-36.
A game of runs highlighted the third canto, with France going first with a 9-2 run behind Parker, De Colo, and Kahudi to widen the gap to double-digits, 48-38. Canada answered back, as the trio of Joseph, Ennis, and Thompson carried the Road Warriors to a 10-3 outburst and inch closer by three, 51-48, late in the quarter. The Canadians had chances to snatch the lead from Les Bleus, but NBA veteran forward Nicolas Batum scored off a jumper and a trey to maintain France’s lead after three, 56-51.
The fourth and final ten minutes saw Parker take the load upon himself for Les Bleus. With France’s offense going through the San Antonio Spurs guard and with a few help from De Colo and Gelabale, the 6’2” Frenchman exploded down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 26 points to help France, who is ranked the fifth best team in the world, withstand Canada by nine, 83-74, and secure the final slot for the 2016 Rio Olympics in August.
The Canadians outrebounded their French counterparts, 35-26. But as far as free throws are concerned, France shot excellently from the line, hitting 82 percent (14-of-17) compared to Canada’s 63 (5-of-8). However, both squads dished the ball equally, with each having 14 team assists in the game.
The young North Americans were led by Joseph and Thomas Scrubb, scoring 20 and 19 respectively. Thompson, who posted double-doubles in their previous games, scored only eight and grabbed just seven rebounds.
France will make its ninth appearance in the Olympics while Canada ends its stellar campaign at second place.
France (83) – Parker 26, De Colo 22, Diaw 9, Batum 7, Heurtel 5, Kahudi 5, Lauvergne 4, Gelabale 2, Pietrus 0, Tillie 0, Moerman 0.
Canada (74) – Joseph 20, Ejim 19, Ennis 9, Thompson 8, Bennett 7, Scrubb P. 2. Birch 2, Heslip 2, Kendall 0, Anthony 0, Gilgeous-Alexander 0.
Quarterscores: 30-25, 39-36, 56-51, 83-74.