Frank Ntilikina finally had his breakout performance at the FIBA World Cup as the French shock the Americans and advance to the semifinals.
- France 89 (5-1, Advance to semifinals)
- USA 79 (5-1, Drops to classification round)
- FIBA World Cup, Final, Box Score
- Dongguang, China
In the biggest game of his career, Frank Ntilikina was onions. Ice in his veins when it mattered most. The New York Knicks point guard had no fear going up against Kemba Walker, outscoring and outplaying his counterpart.
The Knicks guard finished with 11 points on 5-for-9 from the floor. Conversely, Walker finished with 10 points on 2-for-9 shooting.
Two of Ntilikina’s shots were crunch-time buckets when France needed a lift. The first was a game-tying three off of a pick-and-roll. The second came as the shot clock was winding down and Walker was practically in his shorts.
Tremendous win for France. Gobert and Fournier led the charge, but Ntilikina had some huge plays late pic.twitter.com/uTF9n4AN7O
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) September 11, 2019
Ntilikina helped turn the tide in the fourth quarter and put Team USA to bed. It’s not an understatement to call it the most important performance of his career.
While Ntilikina was a major factor in France’s win, Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier were once again the foundation for Les Bleus. Gobert dominated the paint no matter who he was matched up with. His 21 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks almost understate how big of an impact he had.
Although it wasn’t his best performance of the tournament, Fournier’s 22 points were vital. The Magic guard helped counteract a massive third quarter from Donovan Mitchell, who finished with 29 points, none of which came in the fourth quarter.
France head coach Vincent Collet deserves all the credit in the world for this performance. Standing toe-to-toe with Gregg Popovich, Collet was the one pulling all the right strings.
The plan to relentlessly attack the paint with Gobert worked to perfection. Team USA countered it effectively with small-ball lineups in the third.
But Collet eventually went to his very best lineup for the final eight minutes and the decision paid off. Gobert, Fournier, Ntilikina, Nicolas Batum, and Nando De Colo guided France past the Americans and into a semifinal matchup with Argentina.
That game will take place on Friday with USA heading to the classification bracket for a matchup with Serbia on Thursday. USA-Serbia was a trendy pick for a championship matchup and now both nations are playing for fifth place.