Nov. 21, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Victor Claver (18) and forward Nicolas Batum (88) stand on the court during the game against the Phoenix Suns in the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Nicolas Batum & Victor Claver go head-to-head in France vs. Spain

Nicolas Batum and France take on fellow Trail Blazer Victor Claver and Spain in Group A today at 12:50 p.m. PDT.

Claver’s Spain is 3-0 in the tournament and dominating by an average margin of victory of 28.5 PPG. While it kills me as a Blazers’ fan to say this, Claver has had little to do with that success, playing just one minute against Brazil, Spain’s only semi-competitive game, which they won by 19 points.

Batum, on the other hand, is one of France’s best players and has led Les Bleus to a 2-1 start in the tournament, heading into their matchup with rival Spain. Batum is averaging 11.0 PPG and shooting 52 percent from the field. While those numbers seem decent for Batum, remember this is international competition, very different from the NBA.

As a Blazers’ fan, I’d like to see Batum’s numbers well above 15 PPG. A poor start to the tournament against Brazil and a rest game against Egypt are partially to blame for Batum’s poor stat line.

In the first game against Brazil, Batum scored 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting, but managed only one assist and four turnovers. Batum also went 2-of-7 from three-point range, which is relatively surprising as he is a 37 percent three-point shooter in the NBA and the line is further back. Batum bounced back in the next two games for France against Serbia and Egypt, but his play has been underwhelming thus far in the tournament.

In today’s game, which should be one of the best games of the tournament, Claver will rarely see the court if it is close. This would virtually strip the narrative of Batum vs. Claver unless one of the Gasol bros. or Serge Ibaka suffer an injury or get in foul trouble.

A win for France means they would be tied with Spain atop of Group A, with each team controlling their own destiny in the final group game. A loss could mean nothing, or it could mean a lot depending on what happens in the Serbia-Brazil game. France is definitely advancing out of the group, as Iran and Egypt are each win-less in their first three games.

On the surface, it seems like Spain should dominate this game with Tony Parker not in the lineup for France this year, but I wouldn’t be so sure. There is a lot of bad blood between these countries dating back to, I don’t know, the beginning of time? There is more still dating back to the 2012 London Olympics.

In the quarterfinals, Spain knocked France out in a close game that was full of late game fouls, back-and-forth banter, and this play by Batum:



And, this is what Batum said after the game to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski about the punch:



At that moment, I knew Batum was going to be one of my favorite players in the league. While today’s game will most likely feature little Blazer vs. Blazer action, the game surely will not be without fireworks and drama. You can watch it on ESPN3. Also, root for France if you know what’s good for you.



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Tags: 2014 Fiba World Cup France Nicolas Batum Portland Trail Blazers Spain Victor Claver

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