Portugal had led for most of the first half but GB used a strong third quarter, in which they outscored Portugal 25-6, to finally take control of the game.
Luol Deng led all scorers with 21 points while Pops Mensah-Bonsu finished with a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds. He was pleased with how GB responded after trailing at the half: “In the second half it was certainly evident that we came to play. We turned it up and we looked like the team that we are supposed to be.
“When the second half started we knew we had to come out and play defence and be more focused.”
GB started the game slowly, falling behind by six (13-7) as the Portuguese made the most of their long-range shooting.
A Deng three-pointer kick-started a GB comeback as they went on a 7-0 run, taking the lead on a pair of Mensah-Bonsu free-throws.
GB built a small lead but ended the quarter ahead only 18-17 after Portugal scored a put-back at the buzzer.
The hosts got off to a strong start in the second period when a Dan Clark dunk was quickly followed by a three-pointer from Andrew Lawrence. Despite GB building a 26-18 lead, Portugal hit back with an 8-0 run to tie the game.
Mike Lenzly responded with a much-needed three-pointer but Portugal soon grabbed the lead and extended it to 39-33 before late scores from Mensah-Bonsu and Clark saw the gap cut to 39-37 at the half.
Portugal opened the scoring in the third but GB responded with a 10-0 run, capped by a Deng lay-up off a great pass from Lawrence.
Portugal lost their shooting touch thanks in part to the defensive pressure shown by Great Britain who extended their lead to 62-45 heading into the final quarter.
Portugal cut the deficit to 66-56 in the fourth but GB responded immediately with a three-pointer from Deng that effectively ended the contest.
“It was a real good performance,” commented GB Head Coach Chris Finch. “I thought if we played well today we would get the win.
“I liked our intensity, I liked our tempo, and we made shots in the second where we hadn’t made shots consistently before that.”
Luol Deng collected the British Basketball Player of the Year 2011 award at the end of the game.
Great Britain and Portugal face off again tomorrow (Sunday) at Ponds Forge, tip-off 3pm BST. Meanwhile the Standard Life GB women are currently playing Australia in Motorpoint Arena.
(Photos by Mansoor Ahmed/Mansoor Ahmed Photography).
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