The French advanced to the EuroBasket 2011 championship game and punched their ticket into the 2012 London Olympics after a 79-71 victory over Russia in the semifinals on Friday. By defeating Macedonia 82-70 earlier in the day, Spain also qualifed for the tournament's title game and the Olympics.
Coming off a 1-for-8 shooting performance Thursday versus Greece, Bulls center Joakim Noah posted seven points and eight rebounds against Russia. He worked tirelessly in the low post in an effort to get good position on, for the most part, fellow NBA player Timofey Mozgov. However, with Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who led France with 22 points, playing such a large role in France's offense -- as he has the ball in his hands almost as much as Derrick Rose does for the Bulls -- offensive opportunities are hard to come by for Noah.
I caught the entire game -- watching Noah battle for offensive and defensive rebounds, embrace his role as a defensive anchor and score garbage points is reminiscent to his role on the Bulls. Although he had just two points and three rebounds at halftime, the 6-foot-11 center continued to fight for loose balls, and put up five points and five rebounds in the third quarter, which France finished on a 12-2 run to take a 55-47 lead into the fourth quarter.
A competitive, team-first player, Noah was very upset when France coach Vincent Collet removed him from a 10-point game (France lead) with 4-plus minutes remaining.
Like the Bulls, the French offense is heavy on the pick-and-roll, and against Russia, it was typically done to get a favorable matchup for a France guard. When Noah -- whose two baskets came from put-backs on the offensive glass -- did get a chance to back down his defender, he either looked uncomfortable or attempted a left-handed hook shot that looked eerily similar to the one he added to his arsenal following a right thumb injury last season. Unfortunately for Noah, more times than not, his left-handed hook has been off the mark.
Defensively, he was credited for one steal, but had several deflections and even led a couple of fastbreaks after his own rebound, a sight Bulls fans are familiar with.
Noah will take averages of 8.8 points and eight rebounds into the EuroBasket championship Sunday against a Spain team featuring Pau and Marc Gasol.
Luol Deng's Great Britain squad didn't make it past EuroBasket's opening round. But as the host nation, he and GB had already clinched a berth in the 2012 Olympics. Rose, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will suit up for Team USA and join Deng and Noah in next summer's festivities.