#FIBAOQT Final Preview: CANADA vs FRANCE

(Image from FIBA)
This match-up will determine the last team that will enter the 2016 Rio Olympics. Serbia and Croatia have already qualified and now only the Manila OQT winner is left up in the air. 

The last time these two teams met was in the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. In that game, Canada gave up a fourth quarter lead and suffered a defeat, 68-63. Free throws proved the difference in the final period with the North Americans hitting just 3/6 in the final five minutes. For France, Nicolas Batum (24 points, 7 rebounds) was superb, making big shots throughout the game, including 17 points in the second half. 

CAN is coming off a big win over a gritty NZL side. Tristan Thompson recorded a double-double and Cory Joseph shot well again, but it was the heroics of unheralded Melvin Ejim that proved to be the difference in that game. 


FRA had a slow start against TUR, but Les Bleus leaned on their bench mob to mop up the Turks in their Semi-Final and prevail. Thomas Heurtel stepped up big time for FRA in that match, and that’s a testament to this team’s overall depth.

Keys to win:
In their last meeting in 2010, CAN and FRA fought on pretty even keel, but it was free throw shooting that did the Canadians in. Coming into this contest, CAN is, once again, not shooting the ball well from the line — only 67% compared to 84% for FRA. That’s something the French can exploit if things get close in the latter parts of the match.

FRA has been putting up wicked offensive numbers in this toournament. In particular, they’ve been very effective in the two-point area, shooting 61%. No doubt, their efficient bigs and aggressive guards have a lot to do with that. This means CAN will have to tighten their interior defense and really go for those rebounds to avoid giving FRA easy looks and second chance opportunities.

And speaking of rebounding, that’s certainly in CAN’s wheel-house. CAN is averaging nearly 10 more boards than FRA, so that’s something they have to really take advantage of in this game. Thompson, along with guys like Ejim, Khem Birch, and Anthony Bennett have to really crash the boards in this game.

On the other end, FRA’s depth may prove to be a big problem for CAN. FRA averages 33 bench points per game compared to just 23 for CAN. For sure, CAN will need their supporting cast to really step up here.


Key Players:
FRA
Nando De Colo - De Colo has been one of the tournament’s five best players so far. He is so cool under pressure, and just so fundamentally sound that it’s tough to find a weakness in his game. As long he plays like the usual, he should make a big impact here.

Boris Diaw - Diaw’s rebounding and playmaking have both been crucial for FRA, and he will surely be tested here against CAN’s physical and athletic frontline. 

Tony Parker - Parker has not really had a breakout game in this OQT yet, and this game, which may be his final FIBA match, is the perfect stage for him to remind everyone why he’s Eurobasket’s all-time leading scorer.

CAN:
Cory Joseph - Joseph is CAN’s leading scorer, and his match-up at the backcourt with Parker & De Colo will be very good primetime material. If Joseph gets his shot going, CAN is in good shape, but if he goes on a dry spell, the FRA may pull away.

Tristan Thompson - Thompson won’t be expected to score in bunches, but his rebounding will be key. He won’t give CAN 20+ points from the low block, but he should grab 10+ rebounds. His FT shooting will be crucial, though, since FRA will probably look to foul him often.

Melvin Ejim - Ejim has been this team’s unsung hero, and once again he will need to use his length and athleticism to make an impact here. It will be tough for him to match up with Nicolas Batum, but if he can grab some rebounds, block some shots, and make a few buckets, that’ll already be a big help for CAN.


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