|16 August 2013|
|Tony Parker returned to action for France, leading them to a narrow overtime win over Serbia|
France edged out Serbia 78-74 on Thursday night in a warm-up game for EuroBasket 2013 that went into overtime, but both winners and losers had reasons to feel satisfied after the final buzzer.
The hosts, France, were always planning for this encounter to be a bright occasion, as it was the inaugural game for the brand-new arena in Antibes and the 5,200-strong capacity crowd were certainly not disappointed.
Apart from the victory of their national team, local fans were treated to a fantastic clash of atypical, for a friendly game, intensity.
"This was a real EuroBasket game," France head coach Vincent Collet summed it up.
"It was a thrilling game," Serbia head coach Dusan Ivkovic concurred.
Tony Parker, who had a small break from training camp, returned to action with Les Bleus on Thursday and delivered his best performance in a friendly game this summer.
The star point guard drilled two three-pointers in the final 90 seconds of regulation to tie the scores at 69 and send the game into overtime.
France went on to prevail in the extra period, to the delight of fans and media who were alarmed from last Sunday's loss to Greece, but Parker was quick to point out the biggest gain his team got on Thursday.
"It is necessary to get in better shape on defence, but our young players are growing fast and this bodes well for the future."
Big men Joffrey Lauvergne and Alexis Ajinca, who are poised to make their debut with the senior national team at EuroBasket 2013, were the two French players that registered the highest efficiency index rating on Thursday (22 and 13, respectively).
Lauvergne collected a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds on 100% shooting from the floor, also adding two assists, while Ajinca also scored 13 points and picked up four boards.
France had led 38-25 at half-time after an excellent second quarter, but Serbia scored 26 points in the third frame to go ahead.
Les Bleues managed to prevail in the dramatic finale despite the fact they had to play almost the entire
|Serbia head coach Dusan Ivkovic saw his team fight in a big way in Antibes|
second half without small forward Nicolas Batum, who sprained his ankle and will be sidelined for only a few days.
"Tony was much more aggressive late in the game and that made the difference, together with Joffrey's rebounds," a satisfied Collet said.
"We turned a corner tonight, regarding our patience on offence.
"There are still a lot of adjustments to make though, starting from our 23 turnovers," he cautioned however.
Despite the loss, Ivkovic also had plenty of positives to take from Thursday.
The Serbian coach did not even mention the fact that because of injuries his team was playing without their two first-choice guards, Milos Teodosic and Nemanja Nedovic, and still came within a whiff of beating the EuroBasket 2011 silver medallists on the road in a strong clash.
"The team was able to come back and score 26 points to win the third quarter by 15 points," he said.
"In the second half we were definitely the better team, we dominated and were well organized on offence,
"We also played wisely on defence but in the clutch we should have shot better from the foul line (Serbia hit 18 of their 28 free throws).
"It was a very good test and we played in a great atmosphere at the opening of the new hall in Antibes, who after 13 years has a team in the first division again.
France were drawn in First Round Group A at the EuroBasket, together with Great Britain, Ukraine, Israel, Belgium and Germany.
Serbia will go up against Lithuania, F.Y.R. Of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latvia and Montenegro in Group B.