Welcome to Blazersedge's continued coverage of the 2013 EuroBasket in Slovenia.
In case you missed it on Wednesday, we'll be following Portland Trail Blazers forwards Nicolas Batum and Victor Claver as they compete for France and Spain, respectively. Game breakdowns will be written and individual grades will be handed out after every contest.
Spain and France will both play five preliminary round games before the tournament advances to a second stage and, finally, a knockout round that will crown the champion. The preliminary round continued on Friday, with France defeating Israel. Spain had the day off.
Let's get on with Friday's action.
France 82, Israel 63: Game 3, Preliminary Round
Nicolas Batum's line: 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 4-for-6 shooting, 1-for-3 three-point shooting, +22 in 21 minutes
I'm not one who takes any issue with international NBA players representing their countries summer after summer, but those who do wish guys would give it a rest once in awhile start to make more sense when EuroBasket schedules France to play three games in three days.
As we learned during the lockout, everybody loses -- players, fans, interested observes -- during back-to-back-to-backs because a high quality of play just can't be maintained night after night. Friday's contest was just lackluster all the way around, never really getting to the intensity levels we've seen during other games this week.
The good news for the French: they were able to rest their key players again as they enjoyed their second straight blowout victory by taking down Israel.
Batum's individual performance fit in with the uninspired mood of the game. He had two gorgeous alley-oop dunk finishes -- one from Tony Parker as he cut baseline and the other from Nando de Colo in transition -- but the replays served as a nice reminder of just how unattended he was in both situations. Just comically wide open, although no one was complaining about his smooth, authoritative finishes.
Those two slams marked the highlights of the game for both sides, and they stood out from the rest of Batum's night, which was mostly spent going through the motions on both ends. His other two baskets: a running lay-up that he spun in after collecting a nice pass on the move from Alexis Ajinca, and a left corner three set up with a little perimeter two-man action with Boris Diaw. He missed two other threes -- one from the left corner and one from the top -- and that was it for his shooting night.
Batum's only dime set up a Johan Petro baseline jumper, after he drew the attention of the Israeli defense with a curl through the middle.
There were a few episodes of real hustle -- a weakside deflection to break up an over-the-top entry pass early, a high-rising defensive rebound in traffic -- but for the most part he played as if he was doing the bare minimum of work that would ensure a blowout victory. At one point he and Diaw exchanged dirty glances over a blown defensive assignment, but the game was so far out of reach they both quickly moved on from the moment.
Matched up at times against Houston Rockets forward Omri Casspi, the two cancelled each other out for much of the first half, as neither made much of an impact. France was fine with that, as Parker looked to create his own offense, finishing with 12 points and seven assists, and Ajinca had a nice 13-point, 6-rebound effort.
France leaves this one happy with the result and glad for a day off.
In the spirit of soccer write-ups, we'll hand out match ratings, taking into account individual expectations for both Claver and Batum. For Batum, we'll use a 1-10 scale calibrated as such: 1 = passive, invisible; 5 = winning his match-up in unspectacular fashion; and 10 = NBA All-Star level play.
Against Israel, Batum earned a 5. This one hits our "five" standard almost perfectly. France's starters took command in the third quarter; Batum wasn't a major catalyst but he also didn't stand in the way either. The two dunks were the cherries on top of an otherwise lifeless contest.
Programming note: Recaps for this weekend's game may wind up being posted after the fact.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter