Frank Ntilikina
Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

Despite Frank Ntilikina’s worst performance of the FIBA World Cup, France escaped with a win against Lithuania and a quarterfinals berth.

  • France 78 (4-0, 8 points)
  • Lithuania 75 (2-2, 6 points)
  • FIBA World Cup, Final, Box Score
  • Nanjing, China

France should count their blessings after Saturday’s win over Lithuania at the FIBA World Cup. An early lead gave France a nice cushion that they would need. Although no one on France fouled out, Frank Ntilikina, Rudy Gobert, and Evan Fournier all dealt with foul trouble.

For New York Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina, it was his worst game of the tournament by far. He picked up early fouls in both halves and only played 13 minutes total. He was held scoreless on three field goals, but chipped in two rebounds and two assists.

Head coach Vincent Collet needed big contributions from up and down the lineup as he watched a 17-point second-half lead turn into a one-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Despite their foul trouble Fournier and Gobert proved their worth to the French cause.

Fournier had 24 points on 10-for-22 from the floor. Although his shooting efficiency wasn’t great, he came up with some huge buckets when France was teetering on the brink of collapse.

Gobert, on the other hand, made his biggest impact on the defensive end. He finished the game with only one block, but he altered close to a dozen attempts.

Not to mention, he had a key tip out on a Jonas Valunciunas free throw with 30 seconds left. Upon instant replay, the tip was clearly goaltending, but the refs missed the call and there was no official review.

At that point, France had the ball and a 76-75 lead. Nando De Colo scored two of his 21 points on a pretty fadeaway jumper and Lithuania had their backs against the wall with 15 seconds to play.

Collet shockingly removed Gobert from the game. Yes, he took out the best defensive player in the world with 15 seconds left in a one-possession game. However, the move paid off. France had five perimeter players on the floor to contest the three-point line and Lithuania had to launch an unsuccessful contested three with the clock winding down.

France’s depth was tested with all the foul trouble, but they held up. Vincent Poirier added some vital minutes in place of Gobert. Axel Toupane played well defensively for a stretch that helped France weather the Lithuanian storm in the second half.

This was a monumental win for France. Not only did it clinch a berth in the quarterfinals, but it means that if Les Bleus beat Australia on Monday, they will likely avoid a quarterfinal matchup with the Americans.

For what it’s worth, the Boomers had their hands full with the Dominican Republic, a team France utterly dismantled. There’s no shortage of talent playing for Australia though.

Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, and Andrew Bogut are all key contributors on the undefeated squad. Lest we forget that the Boomers knocked off Team USA in an exhibition game last month.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.