France was a co-favorite to win Group H with Canada entering the 2023 FIBA World Cup, but after getting absolutely blasted by the Canadians in the opener, the French side found itself in a precarious position entering Sunday’s game against Latvia.
Latvia, despite not having star Kristaps Porzingis, had won their opener against Lebanon and, as such, could eliminate France with an upset win. Early on, Evan Fournier seemed determined to right the wrongs of the opener, after which he said that France simply got their “asses kicked,” as the Knicks guard dropped 15 of his 27 points in the first quarter to push France into the lead.
However, the Latvian side would not go away, as Davis Bertans knocked down four threes off the bench, but it was Rolands Smits and Arturs Zagars that led the way, combining for 42 points on 16-of-21 shooting to keep Latvia back into the game.
Still, France held a comfortable lead with seven minutes to play when starting point guard Nando de Colo was ejected for his second technical foul with France up 75-66. From there, Zagars, Bertans, and Smits would lead a furious comeback that pushed Latvia in front 87-86 with 34 seconds to play, as they grabbed their first lead of the second half in the final minute. France would then miss two from close range, allowing Latvia to push their lead out to two as Zagars split two free throws with 10 seconds to go, and then a Sylvain Francisco three went begging at the buzzer to give Latvia the stunning upset and advance to the second group stage.
With the win, Latvia moved to 2-0 and secured their spot in the second group stage alongside Canada (which blew out Lebanon on Sunday as well). France, meanwhile, is eliminated and will now have to look at a number of things as they get ready for a home Olympics where they expect to compete for gold but clearly have some work to do (and need to get all their stars on the floor) to have a chance at bouncing back from a massive disappointment.