Notes from Serbia 73, Croatia 72

Krstic came up big for Serbia. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – The elimination rounds at the 2010 FIBA World Championship got off to a wild start Saturday night, as Serbia (who won Group A with a 4-1 record) outlasted Croatia (who finished fourth in Group B with a 2-3 mark) and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 73-72 win. This one had some crazy plays and decisions in the final minute. Here’s how it all went down…

Croatia started out hot, shooting 9-for-14 in the first quarter, but they also earned their early lead on the glass. Five offensive boards in the opening 10 minutes turned into eight second-chance points for Croatia, who scored 27 points on 19 possessions in the first.

It should have been 29 points, but Marko Tomas blew an easy fast-break layup at the buzzer. Perhaps that was a harbinger of things to come, because Croatia went stone cold (4-for-17) in the second period. They scored on just one of their first 10 possessions of the second, as Serbia came back to tie the game at 29.

But Serbia wasn’t much more efficient (the two teams combined to score just 24 points on 34 possessions in the second), and Croatia went into the half with a two-point lead.

With Nenad Krstic carrying most of the load, Serbia took the lead in the third quarter, and they were up seven with three minutes to go in the fourth. But Marko Popovic kept Croatia in the game with a pair of threes.

It became a foul-shooting contest in the final minute with Serbia holding the edge until Marko Tomas stole Aleksandar Rasic‘s inbounds pass with 15 seconds to go. Tomas got the ball to Popovic, who was immediately fouled. He had a chance to give Croatia the lead, but missed the first of the two free throws.

So Serbia had the ball with a tie game and 11.6 seconds left. With Croatia failing to put a defender near the basket, Serbia ran a back-screen for Rasic, who put his team up two with an easy layup.

Up two, Serbia chose to foul (a common decision among European teams), thinking that they’d rather go to overtime than risk losing on a three. Popovic hit both free throws with 5.9 seconds left and Serbia inbounded the ball to Rasic, who raced down court.

Davor Kus lost his balance as he was defending Rasic and fouled the Serb in the paint with one second left. Rasic hit the first and intentionally missed the second to give Serbia a crazy win. He ended up the hero, but was almost the goat.

Here are some additional notes…

  • It was a pretty slow-paced game. Serbia had 73 possessions and Croatia had 72. In fact that extra possession turned out to be the difference in the game.
  • Croatia scored 132.4 points per 100 possessions in the first and fourth quarters. They scored 69.7 per 100 in the second and third quarters.
  • Former Raptor Roko Ukic was getting into the lane and hitting runners early. He had seven points in the first quarter. But Croatia (thanks in part to defensive specialist Ivan Paunic) kept him pretty quiet thereafter. Ukic finished with 11 points and four assists.
  • I was looking forward to the Ante Tomic – Nenad Krstic matchup, but it turned out to be a one-sided battle. Krstic finished with a team-high 16 points, drawing seven fouls on Serbia. Tomic had eight rebounds, but scored just six points and turned the ball over five times. He was probably Croatia’s third most effective big man in this game.
  • Milos Teodosic is perhaps Serbia’s best playmaker, but he had a horrible game. He shot just 1-for-6 from the field and committed four careless turnovers. He did have a couple of steals in the fourth quarter though.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic neither hurt or helped his draft prospects. He scored nine points on 3-for-6 shooting, but had a costly turnover in the fourth.

Serbia will play the winner of Spain and Greece in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

One Comment

  1. Efe says:

    “Up two, Serbia chose to foul (a common decision among European teams), thinking that they’d rather go to overtime than risk losing on a three”.

    That’s not the exact way we (evil european people) see that play. Serbia chose to foul because doing that they would have got the last ball and the chance to win making a last-second shot, no matter if Croatia got one or two points from free throws.

    Sometimes, watching NBA games, I suffer when teams prefer to defend instead of making a foul and getting the last ball. (Sometimes, watching european games I suffer too: Actually, that play is more usual in players and teams from former Yugoeslavia)

    F.

    PS: Sorry for my broken english.