“It’s hard, blew Evan Fournier, the silver medal removed from his neck. They were better than us. They dominated us head and shoulders. Clearly they were above us. There is nothing to say.”
The pain is acute for the Olympic vice-champions, “did not come to finish second“, as they repeated, a year after another lost final at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Losing two finals in two years is hard“, accuses the coup Rudy Gobert (6 points and 6 rebounds). “It’s up to me to be better. I did not know how to help my team.”
To add to the suffering, they bow to the intimate Spanish enemy who has already dominated them at Euro-2011 (final), at the Olympics-2012, at Euro-2015 at home or at the Olympics- 2016.
– The Hernangomez in the role of Gasol –
The Pau brothers and Marc Gasol retired, another sibling has donned the clothes of executioner of the Blues: Willy and Juancho Hernangomez. 37-year-old veteran Rudy Fernandez, the tie man on Tony Parker in the lost 2011 final, had never really taken them off.
Touched by grace, the interior of the Denver Nuggets Juancho Hernangomez (27 points) bullied the Blues from a distance. He who was shooting at 30% success behind the line, signed a 7/9 (78%).
“At the level he was at, he replaced at least one of the Gasol brothers“, dropped Vincent Collet.
Designated MVP of the tournament, his brother Willy, pivot of the New Orleans Pelicans added 14 points.
A year after the final of the Tokyo Olympics, the Olympic vice-champions again fail on the last step.
Except that this time, it’s not against the intimidating United States but a novice Spanish team, with only eight players who have already played in a major tournament.
When opposite, they were among the band of Evan Fournier (23 points) and Rudy Gobert (6 points and 6 rebounds) to have participated in the Japanese adventure. The absence of the two major players Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo weighed heavily in the hitches in attack.
Overwhelmed by the challenge and the Spanish defensive fury, Vincent Collet’s men let the final slip away in the first half. They were never able to fully overcome the 21-point gap suffered in the second quarter (47-26).
“We were taken by the challenge of the final, confirms Collet. We struggled to indulge and it took fifteen minutes to break free.”
– “Our problem ended up killing us“-
Collet had warned: “the finale must be a work.“His men did not deliver the expected picture, the trembling brush adding to the usual inaccuracies (19 bullet losses).
“We knew that the key was the loss of balls, recalled Vincent Collet. We conceded 35 points on these, them 7. Our problem of the whole tournament ended up killing us. We survived against Turkey and Italy but we could have already died.”
Finally, the final faithfully represents their journey: apart from the Polish parenthesis, nothing has ever been simple. “You never let go“, applauded the coach after the miraculous qualification against Italy, the second in a row after that against Turkey.
Once again its players did not sink at the height of the storm, they even maintained hope. In particular Evan Fournier, found captain. His five points just before the return from the locker room made it possible to find the floor only ten lengths behind (47-37).
The momentum of rebound continued, with a 20-2 inflicted, until briefly returning to three points (49-46). Without ever being able to return to this final that they only led one possession (1-0).
“We came across a great team“, summarized Collet. “This is Spain, a basketball school. It’s not just Gasol and (Juan Carlos) Navarro.”