France, Australia win to boost basketball playoff bids

France took a major step toward reaching the medal playoffs in the Olympic men's basketball tournament by beating Lithuania 82-74 on Thursday and Australia boosted playoff hopes by ripping China 81-61.

NBA star guard Tony Parker scored 27 points to lead France, which improved to 2-1 in preliminary Group A, trailing only the US NBA stars and with only winless Tunisia and last-qualifier Nigeria to play.

"It was really important to win," French NBA standout Boris Diaw said. "We are chasing a quarter-final place and we want to be as high up the table as possible.

"We were feeling confident after winning against Argentina, but the pressure was on us. That's what we needed, a couple of wins."

Lithuania sunk to 1-2 and must face the Americans next.

"We've got to prepare for that game like we do for every game," Lithuania's Martynas Pocius said. "It's going to be a very tough game. We've got to try."

Even if they advance, the Lithuanians are looking at facing a top seed, likely Spain, in the quarter-finals.

"We're not quitting," Lithuanian coach Kestutis Kemzura said. "We want to use even the smallest chance."

Australia knows the feeling. Barring an upset of Russia on Monday, they are fighting for the last playoff spot in Group B and a likely quarter-final date with the US NBA superstars.

But by beating China, the Aussie Boomers put themselves in position to secure a playoff spot with a victory over Britain on Saturday.

"It meant a lot to win," Aussie David Andersen said. "If we hadn't it would have been hard to make it to the next round. We show character when our backs are against the wall. We worked as a team."

NBA guard Patrick Mills scored 20 points for Australia while Andersen added 17 points and seven rebounds and Joe Ingles had 13 points and seven rebounds.

"That was a must-win for us," Aussie captain Matt Nielsen said. "These are the ones we have to get."

Wang Shipeng led winless China with 21 points and Yi Jianlian, who suffered a knee injury late in the game, added 13 in a losing cause. China now need help to have any hope of advancement.

"I'm very disappointed," Wang said. "We just want to fight for every single match. The morale of the team is just not to give up."

Lithuania is at risk of missing out after a run of five consecutive Olympic bronze medal game appearances on the 20th anniversary of a bronze that was a big step for a basketball-loving land.

"It was a huge achievement," Kemzura said. "One side is good, it's culture, pushing you forward. On the other hand it's pressure, big responsibility. Now we are trying to show the best basketball we can. It's a big thing."

Parker's 3-pointer at the end of the third period gave France a 59-52 lead and the French began the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run to seize command, speed and passing helping to spread the scoring among four players.

"Tony Parker took over in the second half," Kemzura said. "It's hard to press Tony Parker. We were desperate. We were trying to take risks."

Nicolas Batum added 21 points and six rebounds as well as some emphatic blocked shots while NBA standout Boris Diaw added 10 points for France.

"We've won two matches but we still need to work to get a good position in the quarterfinals," Batum said.

Linas Kleiza of the NBA Toronto Raptors led Lithuania with 17 points while Martynas Pocius contributed 15.

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