National pride works both ways for U.S.-Serbia in FIBA World Cup final


VIDEO: The GameTime crew looks at the USA-Serbia matchup and makes picks

By Sekou Smith and John Schuhmann

MADRID — Serbia will have a decided advantage in terms of the numbers of fans they’ll have in the crowd for Sunday’s gold medal game here at the FIBA World Cup. The Serbian crowd was loud and large during its semifinal win over France and the Serbian players interact with them constantly throughout games. 

“Serbian pride” is the one advantage big man Miroslav Raduljica claims his side will have against the U.S. National Team when they face off for gold.

Members of the U.S. National Team, which hasn’t played to a decidedly pro-U.S. crowd  in this competition from Bilbao to Barcelona and now Madrid, would beg to differ.

National pride works on both sides, even though this particular group of U.S. players haven’t worked together for the years and years their Serbian counterparts have.

“We’re playing for something bigger than ourselves right now,” Kenneth Faried said after practice Saturday. “We’re playing for our country. putting on that USA jersey means more than anything. It’s like you’re playing for the Army, Navy, the Marines … guys who fight for you every day”

Dramatics aside, just earning a spot on the U.S. National Team speaks volumes, considering the number of potential candidates.

“There’s no question,” Klay Thompson said. “It’s a privilege to play for the U.S.A. There are so many talented players that it’s truly an honor to get chosen to play on the world stage for the U.S.A. I’ve had one other competition experience with (the National Team), but nothing compares to this. We’ve been working for this all summer. So we have great pride in what we’re doing out there.”

Getting a feel for the gym

The U.S. team had an extra day between its semifinal win (Thursday) and Serbia’s (Friday). But the U.S. had to travel about 400 miles from Barcelona to Madrid. And Saturday was their first exposure to the Palacio de los Deportes in Spain’s capital.

“It wasn’t really an extra day of rest,” USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It was a travel day. That’s one thing about coming from Barcelona, we have to get a comfort level for this court quickly, where whoever we played would have had a week playing on this court and not travel.”

No excuses, though.

“That’s not going to decide the game,” Krzyzewski added. “The game will be decided on whether we can play defense well enough to stop their very potent offense and score against their very good defense.”

Rematch

Since the break up of Yugoslavia, the United States and Serbia have never played each other in a senior-level, international competition. But this is a rematch of the championship game of the 2007 U19 tournament, when Serbia, playing at home, avenged a preliminary-round loss and beat the U.S., 74-69, for gold. Two Serbian players from that team, Raduljica and Stefan Markovic, start for the senior team now. And Stephen Curry was on that U.S. junior team.

“That’s a bad feeling,” Curry remembered. “It was tough winning silver in that game, so hopefully we can be on the other side of it this time around.”

France wins bronze

Nicolas Batum led France with 27 points as they edged Lithuania 95-93 in the bronze medal game Saturday night. Boris Diaw gave France the lead for good with a nifty reverse with 1:27 to play.

Jonas Valanciunas paced Lithuania with 25 points and nine rebounds.

Playing through the pain

Rudy Gay will get the U.S. iron man award, no matter if they take home gold or silver. The Sacramento Kings forward suffered a bruised jaw, a chipped tooth and might need a root canal when he returns home.

That skirmish at the end of the semifinal win over Lithuania was the aftermath of a cheap shot Gay took in the third quarter from one of the Lavrinovich twins, Gay wasn’t sure which one of them it was.

Gay will, however, be ready to play in Sunday’s gold medal game but he’ll do so while dealing with considerable pain.

Future star

Some of the U.S. players were afraid to try pronouncing the names of their Serbian opponents, but there’s a clear respect for how well Serbia has been playing. In particular, these guys know how hot Milos Teodosic (20.0 points per game, 74.2 percent effective field-goal percentage) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (15.3, 80 percent) have been in the medal rounds.

When asked about Bogdanovic, who was drafted by the Phoenix Suns this year, but will play in Turkey for at least two years, Krzyzewski was effusive.

“I think he has NBA potential now,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a very gifted player. He has great length for a guy who can shoot like that. I think he’s going to be an outstanding player in the NBA.”

15 Comments

  1. It has been a great championship of Serbia, is a success to reach the final

  2. Out of space says:

    Huge Nba fan and of course biggest Serbia fan.. Our chances are real small in this final…max 15-20%… But we aint gonna surrender. Thats for sure… Remember we are a small country and our “Basketball budget is 100.000 smaller than yours. U have more registered basketball players than our Whole country… U have everything to lose we have nothing… We have our pride… Hope u will see it tonight… This USA team is good but not the best u have… There is no Le bron, Paul, Griffin Durant… So we gonna win… 82-79 Serbia…

    Best of luck…I am hoping of a close final, not plus 20-30 for team USA…

    PS. Do u know how u become a champion? Well, u go out on court and beat the best!

  3. Paul says:

    Keep trying NBA, this championship was decided the moment Spain flopped

  4. t thuon says:

    Before tourney,I predicted Spain wouldn’t make the Finals.They had WAY tougher road to get there than the USA,tons of pressure on them from playing at home,and would be overconfident-hearing the Fran Frashillas of the world telling them they were a lock to make Finals.But had they made it-we know the USA would’ve been locked and loaded and tired of hearing how great Spain is.I am little concerned that they take Serbia lightly and fact that they aren’t familiar with these guys isn’t good thing-tactically or motivationaly.But while I think Serbia is resilient and underated,and will hang with USA for bout 3 quarters.Luckily we have best coaching staff in world and I expect USA breaks it open in 2nd half and wins by close to the 21 point spread.Serbia win or lose has wildly exceeded expectations and has ZERO to lose.Concerned bout this one,but believe we get 63 in row and become first country to win back to back Olympics and World Championships in succession. USA 95-76.

  5. brock says:

    Why do people think serbia will be anywhere close?? No chance fellas..do u watch TV?? Irving will guard teodosic, no one can stop rose 10 points, AD will give us 4+ blocks, radujica would have hard time guarding faried, thompson will shoot great just the eay he is doing. And yes the beard man harden will downplay lengthy bogdanovic who is playing pretty well( good shooter no to forget). Curry will lead once again. I still hope to see derozan and gay team up and show what they got. Drummond, cousins and plumlee need to step up in need since serbia do not have big guys except raduljica and krstic (others can barely play. USA USA USA beats serbia by 20+ points.
    From next year they need to keep USA oyt of this basketball game and just give them gild coz i hate writing long paragraphs..

  6. harriethehawk says:

    On your mark, get set, go! USA!!

  7. Ivica Serbia says:

    we’re gonna make you care more next time:)!

  8. Chris says:

    USA home of the free and home of the brave! Go USA! America will win the gold!

  9. Peca says:

    I know you would rather forget, but this actually will not be the first time we’ll meet. We met in 2002 on US soil, and essentialy SFRY ( the big Yugoslavia) stopped existing in 1992, and Serbia tried to claim everything after embargo – from goverment owned real estates in foreign countries to sport medals and formed FRY ( federation of two republics Serbia and Montenegro -the latter being a nation of a bit over 300 000 people- and mayber there was 1 Montenegrin in national team in avg. with minor roles) . So Serbia has been world cup winner two times : in 1998 and 2002, and european champion 3 times 1995, 1997, and 2001.
    The big Yugoslavia was world cup winner 3 times, and as a Serb I agree that it is unfair that our basketball federation and olympic comitee claim these titles.

  10. drago says:

    I consider this match as the Empire against the Republic,The evil Empire USA that ruins it for every one is fighting to maintain it’s choke hold over the basketball universe and the little insignificant pocket of resistance that is Serbia is trying to fight back and bring balance.NBA players are not as godlike to the rest of the world as it might seem and i hope Serbia will prove that just like San Antonio destroyed Miami and showed the world what true basketball is.

    • okckd35 says:

      What a pointless and baseless comment. USA by far has the best ayers in the world. The 2 best players in the nba (james and durant) arent even aying this year and many of the people playing for the USA could have been replaced by better players. Do u really think cousins and thompson are the best USA has to offer?

    • Chris says:

      Drago, what are you talking about?

    • Pavlic says:

      It’s more like humans (serbia) vs. robots Drago 😉

  11. Unlike Charles Barkley I believe the US will win. The US do not want to be another team that lost the gold. Serbia May have the crowd but the US has the talent and youth. Rock On U S A !!! Bring back the Gold. Show the Dream Team 1 and Dream Team 3 That you could also be the elusive Dream Team 3. Those Dream Team had Jordan and Magic, Kobe and Lebron. You have all twelve of you. Do not forget you are American, America seldom or hate to lose.