France veteran big man Boris Diaw would like to believe that Les Bleus has the upperhand in terms of experience when they clash with Canada on Sunday to contest the lone Olympic ticket in the FIBA qualifying tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fresh from its come-from-behind 75-63 thumping of EuroBasket rival Turkey on Saturday, Diaw said they will try to use their collective experience playing international basketball against the Canadians in the championship round.
“Definitely we will try to use our experience,” said Diaw, whose team relied on its bench depth to turn the tables against the world no. 8-ranked Turkish opponent.
The 6-foot-8 Diaw, who on Wednesday was traded by the San Antonio Spurs to the Utah Jazz, used his vast experience in outwitting Turkey beefy and tall frontcourt of New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik and Semih Erden.
The long-time French national player only had 4 points, but he contributed 7 boards, issued 2 assists, 2 steals and the same number of blocks to keep his team’s Olympic dream alive.
Diaw, along with former Spurs teammate Tony Parker, Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum, Nando de Colo, Joffrey Lauvergne and Florent Pietrus all have vast international basketball experience, having been part of the France squad that captured the bronze medal in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Diaw believes the Finals won’t be easy, aware that Canada’s young and talented roster of center Tristan Thompson, Melvin Ejim and shooting guard Cory Joseph are hungry to end their country’s 14-year absence in the Olympics.
“They (Canadians) are experienced, too. They haven’t played many international games but they have experienced players in terms of playing in the (NBA) playoffs,” said the 13-year NBA veteran.
France coach Vincent Collet said they intend to offset Canada’s speed by slowing down the tempo and try to throw them out of their rhythm
“We are not taller than them (Canadians) but they are fast and all are very young,” said Collet, whose team reached the quarterfinals in the 2012 London Olympics.
“We will try to slow them down and make them play halfcourt because if you let them run. it will be very difficult for them to stop.”
Canada reached the championship round in the qualifying tournament in Manila after holding off New Zealand, 78-72 earlier in the day. – By Richard Dy
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