All right. My BBC stint ended just in time for the tip-off here. It’s the hosts Turkey versus a very undermanned French team that’s capable of beating anyone. Anybody see their game against Spain last week? That’s the stuff I’m talking about. Coming from someone who called the Slovenia vs. Australia blowout, the fans’ wildness and the anticipated excitement is a welcome sight. We pick up the action three minutes deep. France trails five to nil thanks to a Turkoglu three and an Asik deuce:
-Ilyasova wears that face mask like a real pro. Even when he feels like his face has become invulnerable to elbows, he should carry on the tradition. He makes two free throw, which is also cool.
-Crazy stat: Turkey leads the tournament in both rebounding and 3-point percentage (41%). Tough to beat a team that shoots well and grabs the boards when they miss.
-Luigi Lamonica is reffing this one. The Italian has a flair for the unfair.
-Turkey must’ve watched Spain dismantle Greece’s attack with the zone last night. They’re trying the same here with 4 minutes remaining in the opening quarter. A 2-3 to be precise.
-Thank you Sinan Erdem Arena for hearing my pleas. Nando de Colo realizes that a zone doesn’t isn’t a STOP sign. If Turkey’s lazy, it is drivable. Nando lays it in, five for him in the game.
-Neither team blowing me away offensively, but it’s 16-13 with a minute left. Better than the 2 points Australia put up in the first 6:30. All of Turkey’s buckets are coming more easily. France is laboring for everything and not finishing when they need to. Nothing wrong witha 4-point deficit (17-13 since I started typing), but they can’t let it get much larger against a balanced team like the Turks.
-Right now the Turks are up by 5, 19-14. Not altogether too discouraging for the French though.
-Raul Jimenez, Spanish basketball coach in the LEB Gold League, just pointed out to me via Twitter the way Turkey’s zone leaves space on the baseline. France has the athletes to make them pay there if they play their cards right. They’ll need to get it to the corner quickly before the gaps close up. Once Turkey’s shotblockers—Omer Asik and Semih Erden in particular—help on the weakside, the French won’t have many clear looks at the hoop.
-Florent Pietrus hits a lucky one from 16 feet. Not his shot, not what France wanted, but they’ll take it.
-And Guler Goes Hard to the hoop and drops ‘er right where she belongs. De Colo with another now. Turkey’s lead is 28-20.
-The fans are into this thing. But credit goes to the French, who are the only ones on their feet consistently here.
-Oguz Savas picks up a little hip check violation thirty feet from the rim. Illegal screen. They don’t need that. Only his first though, so no real foul trouble there. Now maybe if France drove to the basket…
-That’s the way France needs to get into the teeth of this Turkish zone: using Diaw as their facilitator in the key. Get it to him, let the bigs collapse and then a hit a cutter on that baseline we’ve been talking about. That time it turned into two points for Florent Pietrus. Turkey still leads 40-28 with a minute left until halftime.
-Beautiful two man game with Hedo Turkoglu and Oguz Savas. Oguz finishes on a textbook pick and roll. John Wooden is smiling down on Istanbul, wherever he is.
-Turkey leads 43-28 at the half. France is simply overmatched.
Turkey: Sinan Guler 8, Hedo Turkoglu 8, Ersan Ilyasova 7, Ender Arslan 6, Oguz Savas 6
France: Boris Diaw 7, Nando de Colo 7, Florent Pietrus 6
-Turkoglu gets it going. Bangs a triple in from the wing. 46-28 and we’re seconds away from blowout mode (for the second time today).
-My WordPress screwed up and that seemed to be good luck for Mr. Turkoglu. He had two big three to put this thing pretty much out of reach and the third quarter’s not half finished.
-I’ve given up on WordPress tonight. I’ve gotten almost as many ‘500 Internal Server Errors’ as Turkey’s gotten easy looks inside. That’s part of the reason they’re up 62-41. Another reason: France just isn’t that good. Why did the Lord have to strike down Beaubois only weeks before I flew to Istanbul? Why?
-69-45 as the third quarter has almost come to a merciful ending. 28-17 the difference in the third frame as Omer Asik tips it in at the buzzer.
-France has turned it over 14 times. Turkey, 7 times.
-Nicolas Batum catches an oop and then comes down with another two-handed jam. Obviously too little, too late, but it’s nice to see this France side hasn’t completely forgotten where the ball is supposed to end up.
-If anyone still cares out there, Turkey’s up 82-60. Another assist for Nando on the Boris Diaw three but there aren’t many positives I can report at the moment. Gelabale’s dreadlocks haven’t come undone. That’s good news…I guess.
-And Sinan leaves to a standing ovation. Boy does he deserve it. I’ll leave outta here in a few minutes to see if I can grab a word with tonight’s superstar and an ELA blogger.
-Final line on Sinan Güler: 17 points (7/7 from 2, 1/3 from 3), 3 assists, 1 turnover 18 minutes of work. Only Turkoglu has more tonight (20).
-95-77 is your final. Didn’t exactly get the close games we dreamed of, but a day of basketball is a day of basketball, and there ain’t much that beat that. Thank you again to the BBC World Service for letting me on their airwaves for bits and pieces of a 3-hour show. I had a blast.