Basketball: France off to perfect start in Olympic qualifiers

MANILA, Philippines (AFP) — France, led by NBA star Tony Parker, got off to a perfect start Tuesday as the world’s fifth-ranked basketball team threw off the Philippines 93-84 in their bid to win a slot at the Rio Olympics.

The veteran San Antonio Spurs point guard added 21 points and six assists to Nando De Colo’s 27 points and six rebounds as the French backcourt led a fightback from an early 10-point deficit to the host nation.

“Tony Parker was a handful with the ball screen offence… The real strength of the French was in their guards,” the Philippines’ American coach Tab Baldwin told reporters.

Parker’s National Basketball Association teammate Boris Diaw was the fulcrum of the team’s offence, and contributed nine points, nine rebounds and six assists to the tally.

“Boris is a key piece of our team. He plays like a point guard,” Parker said.

The winners of the six-team event in Manila will join already qualified Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China, Lithuania, Nigeria, Spain, the United States and Venezuela at the Rio Olympics in August.

The winners of two men’s basketball tournaments being hosted by Italy and Serbia will also join the line up at the summer Games.

The Philippines ended the first quarter 30-22 ahead thanks to Andray Blatche’s 14 points, but the naturalized Filipino, who once played for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, went cold in the second quarter.

The big-bodied centre still led the hosts’ losing effort with 21 points, eight rebounds, three steals and a block.

In the other opening-day game, Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph poured in 21 points and added three rebounds and five assists as Canada beat Turkey 77-69.

The Canadians, also featuring centre Tristan Thompson of the reigning NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers, will gun for a semi-finals spot when they go against minnows Senegal on Wednesday.

The French get the day off before playing New Zealand on Thursday.

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse