Great Britain will begin their quest for Eurobasket qualification having lost all five preparatory games after falling again to the Netherlands in Manchester last night in a 79-68 loss.
The hosts ran out to an early lead, as Murray registered the first points of the game with a smooth reverse layup down the lane and Lawrence squared up his defender and splashed a triple from the right wing. It was the latter to whom GB would look, for much of the game, for offensive firepower; Lawrence tallied 14 on his return (after having sat out last night’s game).
Worthy De Jong led the way for the visitors with a 18 point, 12 rebound double double. He was ever-present in the paint — hustling for multiple offensive rebounds and fighting for tip ins — and, in all, helping to keep the Netherlands within striking distance early. Lawrence concluded the opening quarter with a hard drive inside and through heavy contact, a controlled finish. GB led 23-12.
It rained from beyond the arc in the second; both sides exchanging fire with precision. Saunders drained from deep outside on the left wing to open; Lawrence compounded with a pull-up triple and Achara converted from the top of the arc, bailing out Ben Gordon, who was hemmed in under the hoop. Four more threes were traded in turn, with De Jong and Jessey stepping up for the Dutch.
GB held a timid 41-37 lead at the half. Their offensive execution had been fluid, but the visitors weren’t to be beaten from long distance, and with scrappy persistence on the boards continued to close the gap. The Netherlands’ first lead of the game came early in the second half, as a two minute scoring drought for GB gave way to six straight for the visitors.
Former NBA sharpshooter Ben Gordon, making his first, long-awaited appearance for GB on home soil, had thus far been disappointingly quiet. Responding to the Dutch surge, though, he came alive, exciting the crowd with consecutive, contested corner threes; from right and left. Clark then netted from deep, before Gordon — hand in face — splashed yet another. The Netherlands continued to respond, however, and reasserted their lead in the third’s dying minutes, 61-60.
GB opened the fourth in unfortunate fashion — indicative of what was to follow, perhaps— with an attempted three from the right corner connecting with nothing but air. The Netherlands were soon out to a 9 point lead, scoring inside and out with seamless execution. Visibly exasperated as the calls continued to go against them, GB continued to trail, falling short on fast breaks and failing to adequately compete for rebounds.
Scores around the rim from Gordon and Lawrence narrowed the Dutch lead to as little as 5, but an erroneous charging call against GB, followed shortly after by an inbounds violation, buried remaining hopes, encouraged by the ever-enthusiastic announcer, of a last gasp comeback. The closing moments were characteristic of much of the game’s latter half; the Netherlands were rarely off the foul line, continued to secure rebounds from their own misses, whilst a wayward Gordon three attempt marked GB’s final shot of the night.
Persistent defensive intensity and vastly superior execution down the stretch handed the Netherlands an ultimately commanding victory — with which Coach Van Helfteren will surely be pleased. GB’s Coach Joe Prunty praised his side’s “aggressiveness” but pinpointed lack of late game execution as a principal weakness, and noted the need “to compete on every play” ahead of the opening qualifier against Hungary in Kecskemét on Wednesday.
A handful of positive takeaways — foremost among them Andrew Lawrence’s impressive form — notwithstanding, the overwhelming feeling must be one of disappointment, as GB failed to step up in what was a winnable contest.
Author: Ed McNally
Image: GB Basketball