Notes from Serbia 92, Spain 89

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.


More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

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


  1. […] world champ SpainSportingNews.comA look at coaching strategies at end of Serbia-SpainESPN (blog)Notes from Serbia 92, Spain (blog)The Associated Press -AFP -Globe and Mailall 207 news […]

  2. Galaxy777 says:

    As i said before team spirit, knowledge of the game is a factor. I’m glad that US team now learned from the past experience, that they cannot win a championship game by such using their individual talent. Now, that they combine FIBA style and NBA type of game, US team now is the borrow meter of the game of basketball. Congratulations…to the US team

  3. Serb against Arrogance says:

    It was a great game with Spain. Spanish team has some excellent, world class players, no doubt about it. However a very young and very motivated team from Serbia won this time, team with a great future. My personal thanks to all Spanish fans who congratulated our team. We’ll meet again and then… who knows. Thank you for supporting us in the further competition. No arrogance, just sport. Peace.

  4. mare says:

    we can all play against America but not against Africans on rids !
    1o million people thank you very much .

  5. Yivyghen says:

    Congrats to Serbia from another arrogant spaniard, maybe being at many finals have made us look arrogant; but my idea of arrogance unfortunately comes from my memories of former Yugoslavia with Petrovic, Divac, Kukoc … I recall them as arrogant. Maybe they were not too different to our team now, not sure anyway. But it is interesting to come here and to see other points of view radically different. Glad to see this as I mever tried to think about it.

    And I do not see were given nothing extra by the referees, not at all, but we just did played awful the whole tournament, no blame on the referees at all.

    I really would like Serbia winning the championship. but I think they will have a very difficult match against Turkey. Yesterday’s deffense with Spain will not be possible against Turkey, many players to be fouled out as referees do play a role, like it or not.

    About USA, I think USA at Olympics were a fantastic team, they had everything, talent, they prepared carefully competition, and they have two giants (Wade and Kobe) dealing with they ball when it matters most. The current USA team is far away from that one, I am not sure but I think Serbia or Turkey will win the championship.

    The real target is the Olympics gold medal for 2012. By that year I hope we had a much better team; we do have room to improve: add a real coach (not this one), add Pau Gasol, add a better version of both Rudy (a shadow of himself) and Ricky Rubio (disappointing performance). And the real reason USA won gold medal was Kobe/Wade … If you change them by Durant/Lebron the USA team will be back “down to earth” as in the recent past.

  6. Petar says:

    For all of you that keep saying the US this the US that, be realistic
    this is a FIBA Tournament, and as far as im concerned, every single possession that the US has, starts with a travel, but some refs are intimadated by the fact that they are all NBA Players..if the refs just start calling HALF of the travels, the US team would simply fail

    European teams like Serbia, Turkey, Greece can’t compete 1on1 with most of the US Players, but incase you guys forgot, basketball is a TEAM game, and in that area, the US come somewhere in between New Zealand and Armenia..when it comes down to playing as a team, EVERY European team has the advantage over far the only test that the US had was Brazil
    In about 14 mins againts Russia, yea they will win, Russia are missing key players
    but when they play againts Argentina, Turkey or Serbia, they DIE

    • Jake says:

      I’m getting pretty sick of people whining and crying about travels. You have two steps, and the US players use them. If anything the FIBA refs call too many travels. Besides players from other countries travel too…don’t believe me? Watch the highlights.

  7. STK says:

    Turkey will win the whole deal led by the Bulls great new center Omer Asik.

  8. marios says:

    milos is a great palyer…he took the shot no matter how many he’d lost in the game………tha’ts the spirit of a true team leader

  9. Julian says:

    Great demonstration of ignorance evan.
    my congratulations to Serbian.

    An arrogant spaniard.

  10. Teo-Bog says:

    Think about this : Serbia , as a country , has 7 million people, and still is a basketball empire . That’s worth of respect .

  11. Evan says:

    I am ver glad the arrogant spaniards lost to Serbia. No matter how well they played through the years I think it’s a team that many fans around the globe don’t like, and that ‘s because of their arrogant attitude and the big push they get in many games (except yesterday) by the referees . Well done Serbia! They got what they deserved….

  12. Javier says:

    I think either Turkey or Serbia is gonna win the Tournament, the USA will fail to reach the final cos Argentina will defeat them. I’m a Spaniard and I would like to congratulate Serbia for the big game they played, they deserved the win and I’m sure they have one of the most prominent teams for now and for the next 6-7 years if they decide to play together for this span of time.

  13. alesana says:

    dream team best team in olympic

  14. Galaxy777 says:

    The game of basketball has evolved its natural way. This means that team spirit is over anything, this was happen for the last 10 years when coaches find ways to win a game without the likes of Michael Jordan. When Argentina won the WC they play as a team. When Spain won WC they play a team. Execution, ball movement and knowledge of the game were a factor. As I recall team USA dunk and score 2 points but before they realize the opponent scores already with 3 points. They execute basic game only but effective, they conserve a lot of energy by distributing the ball very well and look for better position to score. So, their energy will preserve to go on defense that makes the opponent looks miserable.

  15. antawn says:

    Team USA win games because they are the more gifted athletes, I mean look at the way they play, most of the time if not all the time, they dominate in one-on-one plays but they don’t execute their plays as well and efficient like the other international teams do.

    Team USA only had weeks to practice and with little time to get to bond with their teammates, while other teams have been playing together for years. But I bet that if they keep on preparing teams on such short timelines, USA won’t be dominating European or Latin American teams in the next 4 years.

    …and European players can’t create their own shot? What a joke! C’mon man, your man didn’t even win the NBA MVP when Dirk won it, and probably, your man couldn’t win his “own” back to back titles without Pau on his team…and high octane brand of play? Try a chair to your face from Nenad, geez, eurobasket is as high octane as the NBA…ok maybe a little LOL!

    • Jake says:

      You’re right, there are European players who can create their own shot. The US had more prep time for the 08 Olympics and this World Championship than in previous years. They really struggled for about ten years between 1996 and 2006, but they’re starting to return to glory. The 08 team was able to play together for two years (FIBA Americas and the Olympics) and look what happened. They never won by less than 10 pts.

      • alexTD21 says:

        not all of them aren’t good one-on-one players…> Does Manu Ginobili, Leandro Barbosa, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, etc. ring a bell?

  16. matija rovcanin says:

    serbia is an amazing sporting country particularly in team sports… teodosic is hero.. serbia for wc champions 2010

  17. jomix says:

    usa basketball…if its like in the nba say best of 7 games then no one can beat team USA… but if its in the internatinal play like WIN or GO HOME scenario then others might have a chance, in a hard way….though other countries can compete with them but still the superiority factor is still there….

  18. marko says:

    serbia= beast

  19. pantelija says:

    Yugoslavia (Serbia) – USA 81:78 Sept. 5. 2002 Men’s World Basketball Championship Indianapolis

  20. pantelija says:

    Yugoslavia (Serbia) – USA 81:78

  21. Efe says:

    Well, second best game in this championship, after Argentina-Brasil yesterday. Serbia played better than Spain did and so they deserved to win. Sometimes luck is tied with justice, I guess.

    Anyway, I think that Scariolo make a tactic mistake at the end, ordering to defend… I’d bet this has been his last game as coach of spanish national team.

  22. Theodor says:

    Actually from a Greek who’s on holiday in Serbia! 🙂

  23. tata says:

    I hope the US team learns a lesson from this game. Spain was the defending champio and seemed to be toying with Serbia like they were going to “hit the switch” any second and win. The fact that Serbia led by 8 with 3 minutes to go and needed a tie breaking 3 pointer with 3 seconds left to win tells the whole story. Maybe Spain was already looking ahead and paid the price. The US needs to stay focused on one game at a time and keep the pressure on the whole game.

  24. aaron1_4 says:

    La baja de Pau Gasol ha sido determinante en este campeonato, sin quitar meritos a Servia, que ha hacho un partidazo

    • Evan says:

      Será también que ha llegado el momento de pagar toda la arrogancia que llevan los jugadores de la selección española. Ha sido una buena lección para que en el futuro respeten a todos los equipos. Felicidades Serbia. Espero que esta selección ya deje de ganar medallas hasta que salga otra vez una generación de buenos y respetuosos jugadores como en los años 80 y 90. Este equipo ha ganado la antipatía de muchos aficionados por todo el mundo solo por la actitud de superioridad que muestran sus jugadores. La superioridad tiene que aparecer en la forma de jugar y no en la actitud de estos palurdos ante otros jugadores y equipos. Ah, y una cosa más….los árbitros na van a ayudarles para siempre…lo de España ya es una exageración….Si tienen tanto talento, ¿ por qué tanto apoyo de los árbitros?

  25. periong says:

    Not Papovuch errors mine) but Savanovich, the Serbia forward who plays consitently for the team so far in this tournament with all kind of shots, three’s, perimeter 2 pts, pick and roll, fourl shooting, steal and defense plays. The all-around guy for Team Serbia, to my personal observation.

  26. periong says:

    It was another classic game at the 2010 FIBA World Basketball. This time Serbia got back and eliminated defending champion Spain from the medal rounds Those booming three’s of Serbia throughout the game kept the Spanish big inside plays at bay. Two (2) Serbian players – Teodosic (who made the 3pt winner) and Papovich with his three’s, perimeter shooting, too and big inside plays matter most during crucial times of the game. This was lucky day for Serbia,too.

    • Theodor says:

      Well, you have to deserve luck. Serbia played the best basketball on WC so far, despite they have the youngest team. USA has better team, but not unbeatable. Let’s forget the fact that USA has over 300 mln. residents, and probably as many basketball players as Serbia has residents. My point is that such a small country compete with greatest nations in almost every team sport all the time. And not just compete, but win, too! Beside that, you have Serbian coaches in Turkish, NZ, Iranian national team; Serbian players in Australian, Slovenian, Croatian team, etc. My conclusion is that Serbs are great sport nation, and they are setting a good example. It is a part of mentality, no individualism – that is why are they good in team sports.
      Goal of the game is to show team spirit, not capability of playing one-on-one. They play not for the statistics like most of the NBA players, they don’t play for money in national team, they play for their country and team.
      US players are using methods and supplements which are forbidden in Europe. That is one of the reasons they are better prepared physically.
      Go Serbia, and win this Championship by showing us your beautiful game! Go for it for the sixth time! 🙂
      Greetings from Greece!

      • Jake says:

        US players are using methods and supplements that aren’t allowed in Europe!? First of all, I don’t know what “methods” are allowed in the US that aren’t allowed in Europe. Are they not allowed to do a three-man weave in Europe? And as for supplements I’m pretty sure you can get anything in Europe that you can get in the US. Plus, FIBA just did over 100 steroid tests and not a single one came up positive, so it seems like nobody’s using any illegal supplements. Maybe the US players are better prepared physically because they’re African American.

      • formerD1pg says:

        ARE YOU SERIOUS????

        We play a different game over here. We play 21 growing up. We learn how to get to the basket and create our own shots. International players are not good enough individually to do that on a consistant basis. We are just better athletes and more independent basketball players. We are capable of playing team basketball, the NCAA is team basketball. The only suppliment is the “inner city” many of these guys look at basketball as their way out of the ghetto and so they work on their individual skills. Basketball in the USA is life for many inner city youth. The way we play basketball is a direct reflection of American culture. If the the basketball players overseas were as good as ours, they would play the way we play, but they are not good enough and so they are forced to depend on their team. A guy like Kobe or LeBron or Wade ore even Durant can take a game over completely from every aspect. And if you are not from here you don’t understand. I have seen some of the most competitive basketball in the world at a park with regular guys in NYC, LA, Miami, Richmond, Durham, Charlotte, Houston, Seattle….there are guys on european teams that start that would not even get picked up at Rucker Park! The way we learn the game over here is so different that how they learn in other countries.

  27. Dejan says:

    There is nothing confusing about Kosta Perovic starting instead of Nenad Krstic. Krstic missed three opening games and couldn’t just walk into the starting lineup and mess up the existing player chemistry. But he’s managed to be consistent throughout the tournament which makes him good for providing a punch off the bench, or even raising Serbia’s offence a notch after they get a feel of the opponent. The fact that Kosta Perovic did not shine during his stint with Golden State Warriors does not mean that he cannot contribute and hold his own in a starting lineup. The bottom line is that Dusan Ivkovic has a 12 player team, where he can combine lineups to his heart’s content and not be too worried about the outcome. A good example is the game against Croatia, where our “star player” Teodosic got into the game nervous and couldn’t find his rhythm. So Ivkovic benched him and did without. Bjelica had a strong game against Spain before fouling out, and again, Ivkovic could do without. Serbia is playing a total team game so far mirrored only by Turkey who, incidentally, also has a Serbian coach.

  28. formerD1pg says:

    I said that Spain was a joke about 2 weeks ago on here. They are led by an overrated point guard that right now has the talent level of an NBA back-up along the lines of Luke Ridenhour……Fernandez is average at best and that’s why he is an NBA back up shooting guard…..This was not an upset, Spain without Pau is just not that good….ON THE CONTRARY our beloved team USA is missing Kobe, Bron, Wade, CP3, Deron, Amare, Bosh, Superman and Melo yet remain undefeated in the tournament……I’m just sayin

    • Bane says:

      LeBron, Wade, Anthony, Bosh, Superman and “the best coach in the world” were defeated in 2006 by Greece team which had no NBA players, think about that. 😉
      2004 Iverson, Duncan, LeBron, Anthony and others lost 3 games in Olympics
      2002 Iverson, Duncan, Reggie Miller, J. O’neal lost 3 games also and didnt won any medal.

      Just saying 😛

      • Jake says:

        They also had like a week to practice together, and they had to play by different rules, and they had virtually no international experience, and in 06 none of those guys were as good as they’re now. Just sayin.

      • alexTD21 says:

        If I’m not mistaken, the 2004 US Olympic team won the bronze medal…> they lost to Argentina in the semis, lost against Greece and Puerto Rico in the opening rounds….>

    • cherrypopper says:

      Everybody Team USA has played is already home, except Slovenia who just got sent to the 5th-8th place games with a 30-point defeat. Let’s see them play some medal contenders…
      just sayin’ 🙂

  29. joaquin says:

    Nenad Krstic was not on the floor at the last minute due to his low average from the free trhrow line. For sure a foul on him would had been spaniards decision. As for high efficency rates I have to say that in FIBA competitions its very usual to see how nerves and fear make the games come into very low shooting average and short scores. It’s a luck that sometimes happens the opposite, and we can see big big games like this. I also remember Olimpics final Spain-USA and specially a great european final in 1995 Yugoslavia vs. Lithuania (96-90) about ten yerars ago, in wich Djordevic (32pts) and Marciolonis (41) played almost an inmaculated game. (sorry for my english – writing from spain)

  30. Nikola says:

    Serbia are always underrated by americans becuase of the attrocities that happened in the 90’s but everythng has changed now and maybe we can now move on towards the future!

  31. B says:

    I am glad that you said this was not an upset. Those who follow international basketball would know that Serbia has always been at the top in Europe. Also, throughout Europe, the Serbian coaching system is highly regarded. Just look at the nationality of the top Euroleague team coaches. Serbia is a small country, but year after year they produce great results. I don’t know why America doesn’t try going with a european trained coach for once. It would do wonders.

    • Jake says:

      Kryscheioeoijasfjlk (or however you spell his name) is from Poland. Does that count?

    • joaquin says:

      maybe in five – ten years Raptors will give a chance to a gifted european coach… it’s a matter of time. It also was hard to imagine 15 years ago such number of international players in the League.

    • formerD1pg says:

      Because we don’t want to play the european game, we want to play the American game…..High Pressure Man to Man Defense….High Energy Transition Offense….Serbian coaches would stifle the athleticism of the USA…..OUR game is to attack the basket with the dribble drive and force turnovers…..We are undefeated with an American coach….THE BEST COACH IN BASKETBALL (tied with Phil Jackson)…..A european coach could not handle the egos let alone the superior athletic ability of our players…..European teams run diciplined set offenses because their players cant create their own shots not because it’s better basketball…..I can’t think of one european player in the tournament capable of creating their own shot against pressure defense on a consistant basis…..however team USA has at least 9 guys that can and so it is difficult to sell a guy on not blowing past a defender that can’t stay in front of him when he gets paid millions to do just that…..A european coach would get not respect from American players….

      • B says:

        I have nothing against the american basketball playeres. They are incredible athletes and, as you said, are the greatest one on one players on earth. While that style of play does fairly well in the nba, it is harder to do with fiba rules (especially with the no defensive 3 in the key rule). This is why they barely beat Brazil. What is the point of having a bunch of players that can beat their man, when no one can consistently knock down a jumper when the ball gets passed to them. You need good shooters to succeed in international ball. That is why countries like serbia and turkey can be so successful without the quality of players the US has.
        Why not combine the huge talent of nba players with a coach that has been coaching fiba rules ball all their life? It would be an unbeatable combination. Unfortunately you are right… nba players are too cocky for that.
        I am afraid that this squad isn’t good enough to win it this year. They are too inexperienced, have poor tactics, and don’t have kobe, lebron, and wade to finish the game.

  32. Brent L says:

    it’s not the narrowist of margins when they win by 3 points. a 1 point victory would have been the narrowist of margins.

  33. Bane says:

    Thing about zone defense on a big possession at the end by Serbia was probably because of foule touble they had, 2 players were already out (Bjelica and Markovic) and Teodosic had 4 fouls, and apperently they werent able to stop Navarro and others in 1on1 so they decided to play zone. Its smart move by coach Ivkovic, Navarro nailed 3 point, but would be bigger problem if Teodosic went out too cause of 5 fouls. In such a close game you must think of OT too.