Bigger. Faster. Stronger. Quicker. Better.
That about sizes up what France's late third quarter run signified in their impressive 79-71 Semi-Final round victory over the Russian National Team Friday evening from the Kaunas Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Although this prime matchup showcased a Russian squad that, driven by its leader in Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, was every bit as balanced from top to bottom as any team competing in these 2011 EuroBasket games; France's lineup of Batum, Parker, Noah and Diaw simply posed too much of a threat with regards to athleticism and speed in the back and front courts, respectively.
France's leading man, Tony Parker, was at the forefront of that above mentioned athletic imbalance from the start as he marshaled his National Team to a 17-16 first-quarter lead behind nine quick points on 4-of-7 shots from the field.
It's hard to fault Russia for their subsequent inability to keep up with one of the World's quickest basketball phenoms in Parker as current members of the National Basketball Association would surely attest to.
Parker's speed was immediately apparent in this affair as he used it to get into the cracks of Russia's defense and get his own shot or easy and open looks for his French teammates.
However, with all that being said the first-quarter was a hotly contested battle between two International powerhouses dead-set on securing that all-important automatic Olympic bid in the 2012 London games.
The two squads continued to trade punches on into the early portions of the second period before France would open up a 4-point margin on a fastbreak layup by Mickael Gelabale making the score 24-20 with a little more than six minutes remaining in the quarter.
Russia stormed right back, however, to take a 27-26 advantage with 4:11 left on a Viktor Khryapa layup off a beautiful drop off feed from Kirilenko.
That's when France's superior athleticism and speed in the front and back courts rendered itself blatantly obvious as they easily regained the momentum by going on a captivating 13-4 run over the next few minutes to take commanding 39-31 lead.
Russia would close the gap to five points at the half, however they would only connect on 7-of-17 second quarter shots while the French National Team knocked down a cool 8-of-11 attempts en route to a blazing 72.7% shooting mark in the quarter.
Not to be denied Russia defiantly opened up the second half of play with a fierce rally to tie things back up at 39-all on a ground-moving putback dunk by center Timofey Mozgov over the outstretched arms of Chicago Bulls' rebounding-guru Joakim Noah.
The game would stay knotted up until the 3:32 mark of the third until France's speed and athleticism on offense and defense would once again charge its way into the equation as they put in a game-defining 10-2 run to close out the period - Russia's only two points coming from two Mozgov free throws.
With that run the lead was back up to eight points, France leading Russia 55-47 to start the final quarter.
The margin would balloon to 12 points early on before the Russian National Team would recognize what hit them, however, as they had done so many times throughout the contest, the Russians mounted another gritty comeback cutting France's lead to just five points at 69-64 on a Kirilenko three-pointer with only 3:25 remaining in the game.
Unfortunately for Russia Parker went to work and took over again in the final stages as he continued to show his dominance late in these EuroBasket 2011 games.
Parker would score France's next four points to push the lead to nine points at 73-64 and ultimately ice the game for the French in this competitively-charged Semi-Final round affair.
Parker led all players with 22 points. He added four steals and was 9-of-20 overall shooting from the floor on the night.
Nicolas Batum, Parker's wiry 6-8 backcourt starting teammate, tallied 19 points on a highly-efficient 6-of-8 shooting from the field connecting on 3-of-5 from three-point range.
Kirilenko put in 21 points for Russia while center Timofey Mozgov totaled 12 in 22 minutes of action.
Next up for the French National Team is a Gold Medal Finale against the Gasol brothers and Spain. The contest is scheduled for Sunday, September 18th.
Spain bested F.Y.R. of Macedonia 92-80 Friday behind a 35-point performance from off-guard Juan Carlos Navarro.
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© 2011 Jarrod Gillis -- All Rights Reserved