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France ‘scared to go home’ after early Basketball World Cup exit

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France’s Nicolas Batum said he was ‘scared to go home’ after the Tokyo Olympic silver medallist crashed out of the Basketball World Cup with a shock loss to Latvia on Sunday.

France was eliminated in the first round after losing 88-86 to the tournament debutant in Jakarta, two days after being thrashed by Canada in its opening game.

The French came into the tournament in Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan as one of the favourites to lift the Naismith Trophy.

Instead they got what Batum said was ‘a good kick in the butt’ just 12 months out from the Paris Olympics.

“I wasn’t really ashamed with that jersey but that’s the first time I’m really ashamed,” said Los Angeles Clippers forward Batum, one of several NBA players in the French squad.

“I’m scared to go home because we have let a lot of people down. A lot of people in the country believed in us to do something. They believed in it and we didn’t do it.”

France went into the game on the back of a 95-65 roasting by Canada in its tournament opener.

It never trailed against Latvia until the Baltic side took a one-point lead with just over 30 seconds remaining.

Arturs Zagars then nailed a free throw to put Latvia ahead by two points with 10 seconds remaining, and Sylvain Francisco missed a three-point attempt with France’s final chance.

Latvia outscored France 26-12 in the fourth quarter, which also saw French playmaker Nando de Colo ejected for two unsportsmanlike fouls with minutes remaining.

France head coach Vincent Collet said the defeat was ‘a nightmare’.

“After the first defeat from Friday we were expecting a reaction,” he said.

“I think we got it – a real one because during three quarters we played much better – but it was not enough because we have suffered from something from Friday. Our spirit was not at the Latvian level and I think that made the difference in the last couple of minutes.”

Momentum shift

France held a nine-point lead when De Colo was ejected, but Latvia began to gain ground as the momentum of the game shifted.

Batum said the incident was ‘the turnaround of the game’.

“The momentum completely switched, and when we lost our general – because that’s who he is – it was a huge blow for us,” he said.

“We tried to get through it but that clearly changed the whole momentum.”

Latvia was roared on by the crowd in Jakarta and fought its way back from several deficits throughout the game.

Power forward Davis Bertans said he and his teammates ‘kept pushing’.

“Probably a lot of teams would have put their heads down knowing that the other team on paper were stronger and better in almost all the positions,” he said.

“We knew that we had to stay close in the game and we just needed that one opportunity, whenever it was. Fortunately it came 37 seconds before the buzzer.”

Latvia won its opening game in Group H, 109-70 against Lebanon.

It is now guaranteed a place in the next round and Bertans said they ‘didn’t come here to participate’.

“The job is still the same – nothing is done,” he said.

“The more wins we can collect now, the better the chances for us to go further and do something even more special.”

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