ISTANBUL – Another classic at the Sinan Erdem Dome.
Milos Teodosic was the hero, pulling up for a loooong three with 3.1 seconds left to win the game for Serbia. Spain, the defending world champions, will not medal here in Istanbul. They will move to the consolation bracket now, with Serbia advancing to Saturday’s semifinals, where they will play the winner of tonight’s Slovenia-Turkey game.
Many will call this an upset, but I don’t really see it that way. Serbia had the most efficient offense in pool play, and through the round of 16, they were the third best team in the tournament statistically (behind the U.S. and Turkey), ranking second offensively and third defensively.
Spain, with as much talent and experience as they have, just hadn’t played that well.
Of course, this game was won by the narrowest of margins. It’s not like Serbia was far and away the better team on Wednesday.
They got off to a strong start and led by as many as 10 in the first quarter, with Nemanja Bjelica and Novica Velickovic each draining a pair of threes and Spain going scoreless on six straight possessions.
A couple of Juan Carlos Navarro threes kept Spain in it, but Serbia continued to shoot the ball well and led by eight at halftime. They had just two turnovers in the first half and would have had a bigger lead if they shot better than 6-for-12 from the free throw line.
When the third quarter began, the turnovers arrived. Serbia turned the ball over six times on their first seven possessions and 10 times total in the period. A 10-0 Spain run to start the third gave them the lead, but they turned the ball over seven times themselves in the period, and Serbia was back ahead by three going into the fourth.
Continuing to bomb threes, Serbia led by eight with four minutes to go. But Spain came back with an 11-3, capped off by a Navarro-Marc Gasol pick-and-roll which tied the game at 89 with 25 seconds to go.
Serbia called a timeout and ran a high screen to get Jorge Garbajosa to switch out on Teodosic. But rather than use his quickness advantage, Teodosic just kept dribbling midway between the circles and then pulled up for the game-winner.
After a timeout, Spain ran a disturbingly simple out-of-bounds play, and Garbajosa lost his dribble as time ran out.
- Teodosic played awful in Serbia’s round-of-16 win over Croatia on Saturday, and I noted as such afterward. I think he made up for it on Wednesday.
- Timberwolves president David Kahn was in attendance on Wednesday, and he had to be pleased with what he saw from Bjelica, whose rights he traded for on draft night a couple of months ago. Bjelica was the 35th pick of the draft, and I’m sure new assistant GM Tony Ronzone had something to do with the Wolves acquiring the 22 year old who hit all five of his shots against Spain. Ronzone is also here in Istanbul, running USA Basketball’s scouting.
- In one of those confusing international lineup decisions, Kosta Perovic started at center for Serbia, instead of Nenad Krstic. Krstic played 28 minutes and finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and six fouls drawn, but he also wasn’t on the floor for a key offensive possession down the stretch (the one before Teodosic hit the game-winner).
- Rudy Fernandez had some big rebounds and a couple of big buckets in the fourth, but he was 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
- For some reason, Serbia went to a zone defense on a big possession down the stretch, and they left Navarro wide open for a three that pulled Spain to within two.
- Spain tried going zone at times, hoping it would have the same effect it had on Greece. But Serbia got the ball to Krstic in the post against it, and was just too good from the perimeter. They hit 15 of their 30 3-point attempts in the game.
- Gasol was 6-for-7 from the field, but Spain did not go to him much in the post.
- It was another ridiculously efficient game, with the two teams combining for 181 points on 147 possessions, a rate of 123 per 100.