ISTANBUL – The games in this tournament just keep getting better and better. This one was another classic, with Turkey pulling out an amazing 83-82 victory over Serbia to reach the gold medal game.
That sets up the matchup that many have been waiting for: USA vs. Turkey for the gold on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). The atmosphere inside the Sinan Erdem Dome will be absolutely insane, as it was in the closing moments of this one.
Serbia was ahead most of the night, with Turkey cooling off after shooting 67 percent in Wednesday’s win over Slovenia. When Turkey tied the game at 46 early in the third quarter, Milos Teodosic led Serbia on an 8-0 run, which began with a cold-blooded pull-up three when the whistles were at their loudest.
Turkey climbed back to within two early in the fourth, but Serbia answered again and was up eight (72-64) with five and a half minutes to go after another Teodosic pull-up three.
That’s when Turkey scored 14 points in five possessions, with Kerem Tunceri putting them ahead with a pull-up three that nearly blew the roof off the arena.
Serbia then answered again, and Marko Keselj put them ahead by grabbing an incredible offensive rebound and hitting a pair of free throws with 28.7 seconds left. But on the other end, Serbia gave Tunceri a wide-open lane and his drive-and-dish to Semih Erden gave Turkey a one-point lead and fouled Nenad Krstic out of the game. Erden missed the free throw with 16.8 seconds left though.
Then Serbia ran a beautiful play to take the lead. Teodosic ran a pick-and-roll with Novica Velickovic. He hesitated a bit, then drove left and dished to Aleksandar Rasic who was cutting along the baseline. Rasic caught the ball and immediately hit Velickovic on the other side of the basket for a layup that put Serbia up 82-81 with 4.3 seconds left.
After Turkey called timeout, they inbounded the ball to Hedo Turkoglu who appeared to fumble the ball, but it went right to Tunceri on the baseline, who had another open lane to the basket. His layup put Turkey ahead one with 0.5 seconds left.
The clock out when Serbia inbounded the ball in the backcourt, and the whole building celebrated. But the referees ruled that Serbian coach Dusan Ivkovic had called timeout, and they put 0.5 back on the clock.
The timeout gave Serbia the ball at the mid-court line, and they gave themselves a good shot at the win when Dusko Savanovic threw a great lob to Velickovic. But Erden was right there to block Velickovic’s layup at the buzzer.
- More than half of Serbia’s shots (29 of 57) came from beyond the arc.
- Teodosic finished with 13 points and 11 assists, but made just one of his four shots in the fourth quarter.
- Turkoglu led Turkey with 16 points on 6-for-14 from the field, but he didn’t have a single assist. In fact, Turkey assisted on just 10 of its 27 field goals.
- Tunceri scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, connecting on all four shots he took in the final period.
- Turkey almost beat itself by shooting just 20-for-33 (61 percent) from the free throw line.
- Speaking of free throws, there was an interesting play/manuever/strategy when new Bulls center Omer Asik was fouled with his team up one and 1:18 left in the fourth. Asik, who was 1-for-3 from the line in the game and 15-for-41 (37 percent) in the tournament, laid down on the ground in pain after the foul, holding his face. Turkey replaced him with point guard Ender Arslan, who was just 4-for-10 from the line in the tournament. Arslan made one of the two freebies.
- Late in the fourth quarter, there were reporters (at least I assume they were reporters) waving their arms and whistling in the media section when Serbia was shooting free throws.
- Serbia will play Lithuania for the bronze medal on Sunday (noon ET, ESPN Classic).