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(Mall of Asia Arena)
6:30 p.m. – Canada vs New Zealand
9 p.m. – France vs Turkey
French face Turks in semis; Canadians meet Tall Blacks.
World No. 5 France gets to finally parade Nicolas Batum when it takes on Turkey tonight in the semifinals of the Manila leg Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Rated No. 8, Turkey holds a 95-77 win over the French during their last major meeting in the international stage, the round-of-16 during the 2010 FIBA World Cup in Istanbul.
“We know each other very well. Turkey is a very experienced team and it has the size,” said France coach Vincent Collet, who will also have Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nando de Colo in the 9 pm meeting.
The first game will have the first semis pairing featuring Canada and New Zealand at 6:30.
The team known by its moniker Les Bleus finished the elimination round with victories against Gilas Pilipinas (93-84) and New Zealand (86-80) to top Group B with a perfect 2-0 record.
France rallied back from a 13-point deficit in the opening quarter against the Philippines before surviving a late charge against the Filipinos in front of a packed crowd that included President Duterte last Tuesday.
Against the Tall Blacks of New Zealand, France played catch up for most part in a nerve-wrecking first three quarters before finally making a crucial run in the fourth quarter to get the win.
“The bench did a great job. Our performance worried me a little bit. It will be difficult for us to win if we are going to play like this again against Turkey,” said Collet, who has been the coach of France since 2009.
“Our ball movement was poor (11 assists), we did not pass enough,” said Collet, adding that another concern for them is Turkey’s pair of 7-footers in NBA veteran Omar Asik of the New Orleans Pelicans and Semih Erden.
The 6-foot-8 Batum missed the team’s first two games because of NBA matters, eventually signing a lucrative $120 million, 4-year contract with the Charlotte Hornets.
“I know them (teammates), they know me,” said Batum of their team chemistry. “I can’t wait to play.”