GILAS Pilipinas' torrid outside shooting cooled down in the endgame, allowing host France to escape with a 75-68 win at the start of the 2014 Antibes International Basketball Tournament on Friday (Saturday, Manila time).
The smaller Filipinos peppered France with 12 three-pointers to silence a hostile crowd at the Azur Arena in Antibes, France for much of the second half where they led by as much as seven points.
But NBA player Nicolas Batum pumped life into France’s lethargic offense, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the second half to spare the hosts blushes in their tournament debut.
“Boiled down to endgame execution,” said Gilas team manager Aboy Castro after the game. “But we fought them (French team) tooth and nail. That was a top five team in the world."
France, which played without San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker, also pounded the ball inside when Gilas' new naturalized center Andray Blatche sat out a huge part of the fourth quarter.
The 6-foot-11 Blatche, who finished with 12 points, sprained his right ankle late in the third period.
The former Brooklyn Nets slotman managed to return to action inside the final three minutes of the pocket tournament, but he was hardly the same again.
"Nice effort vs France tonight," Gilas coach Chot Reyes later tweeted. "We need to keep improving and play better against Australia tomorrow."
France, ranked eighth in the world and with six NBA players in its fold, joined Australia at the top of the leaderboard in this four-nation pocket tournament, two weeks before its stint in the Fiba World Cup in Spain.
The Aussies earlier scored a 75-65 victory over Ukraine. They next face Gilas on Saturday at 6 p.m. (12 midnight, Manila time).
French big man Joffrey Lauvergne backed up Batum with 12 points while Mikael Pietrus and Nando de Colo, the team's other NBA veterans, chipped in 10 and eight apiece.
Paul Lee matched Blatche's 12 points while Rain or Shine teammate Jeff Chan had nine points. Veteran guard Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo added eight apiece.
"We had great effort today but we’ll come back even better tomorrow,” Castro said.