Posts Tagged ‘Milos Teodosic’

Plenty to watch at World Cup


VIDEO: Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis talk about the upcoming FIBA World Cup

GRANADA, SPAIN – The FIBA Basketball World Cup is the best hoops you can get outside of the NBA season. Yes, it’s better than the Olympics.

There are twice as many teams, allowing for more depth from Europe and the Americas. And there’s an extra round of single-elimination, tournament play, giving us 15 win-or-go-home games once pool play is completed.

No, the NBA’s top two players aren’t here. But there are 46 guys currently on NBA rosters, a high for any international tournament. And because Kevin Durant and LeBron James aren’t representing the United States, and because there is so much depth among the second tier of teams, the competition for medals will be captivating.

Along with the U.S., Spain is the co-favorite. As the hosts they will enjoy a home-court advantage, which helped propel Turkey to the final game four years ago. But they also have a ton of talent and experience, both in the NBA and in making the U.S. sweat for a gold medal. The reason U.S. has four centers on its roster is because Spain has Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Beyond the top two, the competition to reach the semifinals could be wide open. Pool play will help sort things out somewhat, but as many as 10 other teams could have dreams of making the semifinals and playing for a medal.

Most of those teams will be on Spain’s half of the 16-team bracket after pool play is completed. In Group A play in Granada, the hosts will face Brazil, with its three NBA big men and terrific point guard, France, the 2013 European champion with five NBA players on is roster, and Serbia, who knocked out Spain in the quarterfinals of this tournament four years ago.

When pool play is completed, the top four teams from Group A (Granada) will match up with the top four from Group B (Sevilla) on the Madrid side of the bracket. Group B features Argentina, Croatia, Greece and Puerto Rico.

The U.S. has an easier path to the final. In Group C pool play in Bilbao, its toughest opponent will likely be Turkey, which has fallen hard since the 2010 World Cup, or the Dominican Republic, which the Americans blew out in New York last week.

Group D (Gran Canaria) features two tougher teams – Australia and Lithuania – which the U.S. will likely face on the Barcelona side of the bracket.

The USA’s history in this event (formerly called the World Championship) is not great. Prior to 2010, it had only won 1954, 1986 and 1994. Yugoslavia, which continued to exist as a basketball team after it dissolved as a nation, won five World Championships.

But Mike Krzyzewski has compiled a 43-1 record and a 36-game winning streak in his nine-year tenure as the USA head coach. He won this tournament four years ago with a roster of 12 guys who had never played a senior-level international game. And the world has yet to experience the defensive of new assistant Tom Thibodeau first hand.

The U.S. won its four exhibition games by an average of 29 points, but could still use improvement, especially on offense. Pool play, beginning with Saturday’s game against Finland (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) will allow them to work some things out, but it’s doubtful that anything can prepare them for a potential gold-medal game against Spain in Madrid.

Before we can think about that, there is a ton of high-quality basketball to be played and plenty of reasons to watch.

There are key players on NBA contenders — Derrick Rose and Anderson Varejao — looking to get back into basketball shape after injury-riddled seasons.

There is the last stand of Argentina’s golden generation and their beautiful brand of basketball, represented by Andres Nocioni, Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola.

There’s the continued growth of Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng, and Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas

There are six incoming rookies, including Australia’s Dante Exum (Jazz), Greece’s Kostas Papanikolaou (Rockets) and the Croatian pair of Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets) and Damjan Rudez (Pacers), to watch and figure out how they might contribute to their new teams.

There are 2014 draftees like Croatia’s Dario Saric (Sixers) and Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic (Suns), who might eventually be NBA contributors. And there are a few potential prospects, like the Ukraine’s Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (who will play at Kansas next season), to keep an eye out for.

There’s the curiosity of how veteran Euroleague floor generals like Marcelo Huertas (Brazil) and Milos Teodosic (Serbia) would fit in the NBA.

There’s the Dragic brothers racing up the floor at every opportunity for Slovenia. There’s Andray Blatche playing point-center for the Philippines. And there’s the flair of real point guards like Carlos Arroyo and Ricky Rubio.

Seventy-six games over 17 days. If you can’t wait the upcoming NBA season, with Kevin Love joining LeBron in Cleveland, the Spurs trying for their first repeat, and Rose back in a Bulls uniform, the FIBA World Cup should hold you off for a while.

France, Russia Reach EuroBasket Semis

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Hometown and host-nation favorite Lithuania saved its Olympic qualifying bacon with a win over Slovenia in early action Thursday at EuroBasket 2011.

The crowd faves were just the warm up act, however, as France (as noted by my main man and NBA.com’s John Schuhmann) and Russia played their way into the semifinals with wins …

Russia 77, Serbia 67 (Box Score)

There is only one team still playing in EuroBasket that hasn’t tasted defeat in this competition. Russia has won nine straight games and will take that unblemished mark into a semifinal showdown against France. When you have the most versatile player in the competition, do-it-all swingman Andrei Kirilenko, leading the charge every night, it makes sense that Russia continues to wear down the competition. Kirilenko finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.

“Two years ago we played in the same phase against the same group of great players and the same great coach and we lost, as I said then, by a better team,” said Russia coach David Blatt. “We moved forward from there. We provided our players with the kind of teaching and culture it takes to build a successful national team. We got back two of our main players – Kirilenko and [Viktor] Khryapa, who didn’t play in 2009, and you saw tonight how important they are. But the story is the other players who matured and are now a higher level basketball players. It’s a sweet win, but the joy is short, because we play tomorrow in the semifinals. We’ve had a great run so far.”

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Serbia In, Germany Out At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Spain claimed the top spot in Group E with an easy win over France in what should have been a clash of the titans on Day 11 at EuroBasket 2011.

(More on that shortly!)

The day belonged to the crew from Serbia, though, as they claimed something even more important; a spot in the quarterfinals …

Serbia 68, Turkey 67 (Box Score)

Serbia needed this win to secure their ticket to the quarterfinals and to keep their Olympic hopes alive. They also needed an Ersan Ilyasova miss in the final seconds to escape Turkey in a thriller that went down the final tense moments for both teams. It helped that Milos Tedosic finally returned to form, finishing with a game-high 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

This loss is a wicked blow for Turkey, the runner-up (to the U.S. team) at last summer’s World Championships on their home soil. “We are very sad,” said Turkey coach Orhun Ene. “We were second at the last World Championship and we had big expectations for this tournament. We didn’t show our potential throughout the tournament. We promised the Turkish people that we would try to qualify for the Olympics for the first time, but we lost too many games. This was our last chance and we lost the game in only one possession.”

They won’t have to search hard to find reasons why didn’t succeed. Making just 55 percent (16-for-29) of your free throws in a game decided by the thinnest of margins is certainly a recipe for disaster. Remember, they made a paltry 45 percent (10-for-22) of their free throws Friday in a six-point loss to Germany. Serbia shot an impressive 81 percent (13-for-16) from the free throw line and also grabbed three more rebounds (38-35) than Turkey.

“This was very tough. Everybody was under pressure as the winner would go to the quarterfinals,” said Serbia’s coach, Dusan Ivkovic. “We controlled the game in the first half but our concentration went down in the second half. We led the game for almost 40 minutes only to allow Turkey to have the last shot. We deserved this victory because we were better on the night.”

Spain 96, France 69 (Box Score)

The top spot in Group E belongs to the defending champions, courtesy of their win over a France team that played without both Tony Parker and Joakim Noah (both given a day of rest). Without two of their biggest stars, France struggled to keep the game close after halftime. Spain used a 27-4 run in the third quarter to blow the game open and then cruised to the finish. The loss ended France’s seven-game win streak.

The difference in approach to this game was interesting, with France easing up and Spain going all out. “It was a weird game but we wanted to respect our opponent as well as other teams who are playing in this tournament to define the final positions and especially for ourselves, we believe there is nothing better than a good game to improve and get better,” said Spain coach Sergio Scariolo. “This was our motivation. Everybody gave something. We get to the point with the do-or-die competition starts. We know we start from zero but it’s better to get there in the right way.”

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On To The Next Phase At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With the initial phase of EuroBasket 2011 in the books it’s time to cast an eye toward the start of the second round, which kicks off Wednesday, and take a quick look back at some of the highlights and highlight-makers from preliminary play.

We’ve gone from four groups of six to two groups of six for the second round:

Group E

  • France, 2-0
  • Serbia, 1-1
  • Spain, 1-1
  • Turkey, 1-1
  • Lithuania, 1-1
  • Germany, 0-2

Group F

  • Macedonia, 2-0
  • Russia, 2-0
  • Slovenia, 1-1
  • Greece, 1-1
  • Georgia, 0-2
  • Finland, 0-2

A couple of serious contenders are going to be sent packing in Group E, since only the top four teams advance to the quarterfinals. There are a couple of surprise teams in Group F, so there is still a chance that a Macedonia or Finland crashes the championship round.

As you can probably tell, group play results actually matter in this tournament (the results of games against teams that have made it this far are reflected in the records above).

Germany-Spain, Turkey-France and Serbia-Lithuania highlight Wednesday’s action while Georgia-Macedonia, Finland-Russia and Slovenia-Greece will be on center stage Thursday.

In order to make it this far, though, these 12 remaining teams had to grind through a rugged field of 24 to get here. And we’ve got a few awards (team and individual, you know how we do it here at the hideout) that need to be handed out before we move on:

Group Play MVP: Tony Parker, France. A point guard was walking away with this award. It was either Parker or Serbia’s Milos Teodosic, who has quickly earned HT fave status for his magnificent play in this competition. Parker has been the driving force behind the team playing the best, to this point, in the competition. And he’s showing off his all-around game, the one he rarely gets credit for while working his regular job. For those of us who have watched Parker mature over the years, from the young teenage point guard project the San Antonio Spurs drafted years ago to the Finals MVP and dynamic floor general he has become, his performance here should not be a revelation. Still, we will give him his just due. He’s performed better than anyone else in this tournament.

Most Surprising Team Headed Into The Next Round: Macedonia. We’ve been talking about Bo McCalebb, Pero Antic and F.D.R. Macedonia since before they got on that roll and reeled off three straight wins to secure their spot in this round (they finished it off with a fourth straight win Sunday over Bosnia and Herzegovina). Before the competition began we quizzed a coach and player from another team before the competition to find out the players and teams we should be aware of and no one from Macedonia was so much as mentioned. We’re going to expand our interview list next time around.

Most Surprising Not Headed Into The Next Round: Croatia. Needing a win over Greece Sunday to get through to the next round, Croatia simply couldn’t dial-up the right performance when they needed it most. More was expected out of this crew with Bojan Bogdanovich and Ante Tomic leading the way, a team with rich tradition and top six finishes in EuroBasket 2009 and 2007. Instead, they finished play in Group C with a 2-3 record and are now left to watch the London Olympics from the crowd like the rest of us.

Hate To See You Leave: Luol Deng and Great Britain won’t be sticking around for this next phase. And that’s too bad, because Deng made a strong case of his own for Group Play MVP honors. His 28 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in Sunday’s win over Poland turned out to be a fitting going away present. The good thing is we’ll see him in London next summer anyway, since the host nation team already has its bid for the Olympics locked up.

Moving On By The Skin Of Their Teeth: Turkey. They needed a win from Great Britain over Poland Sunday to secure their ticket to the second round. It’s not like they didn’t help themselves with that huge win over previously unbeaten and defending champion Spain earlier today. They obviously needed that win as well to make it here. But with Great Britain’s up and down performances in this competition, there was no guarantee that they’d provide the assist Turkey needed.

Best Game Of the Competition, So Far: France’s overtime win over Serbia from earlier today is the winner, with unblemished Russia’s win over a previously unbeaten Slovenia (on Sergey Monya‘s jumper with :00.2 to play for the top spot in Group D) finishing a close second.

France-Serbia had a buzzer-beating flair to it as well, although with a decidedly different outcome.

Parker had a chance to end this one in regulation but missed an 18-foot fadeaway at the buzzer. Serbia went up 96-95 on Marko Keselj 3-pointer with 24 seconds left in overtime. But instead of playing straight defense to try to finish the game, Serbia fouled Parker (to make sure they got the ball back). He drained both free throws with 19 seconds left for a 97-96 lead. The plan worked to perfection until Dusko Savanovic, wide open on the left block with four seconds to play, missed an easy bank shot that would have won the game.

As my main man John Schuhmann reminded me tonight, five of Serbia’s nine games in last year’s World Championship in Turkey were decided by three points or less. You’re almost guaranteed a thriller when they hit the floor in a competition like this.

The best part, we’ll see Serbia (and 11 other quality teams) again in the second round.

France Rolls Without Parker On Day 5

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Even without the services of Tony Parker, France remained unblemished in preliminary action at EuroBasket 2011.

Parker’s teammates ruled the roost in Lithuania, knocking off Italy on Day 5 with a dramatic come-from-behind win without their catalyst and best player healthy enough to contribute in the fourth quarter.

But that was far from the only action worthy of our attention …

Great Britain 85, Portugal 73 (Box Score)

Seeing Luol Deng operate as the No. 1 option for a team is quite interesting considering we haven’t seen him do it since his days at Duke. That said, the Bulls’ forward has been more than up to the task for a Great Britain team that needs every ounce of what he brings. Deng dominated Portugal, scoring 21 of his 31 points before halftime. Deng also grabbed 10 rebounds, had four assists, a block and a steal in a complete performance.

This was Great Britain’s first win in an international competition of this stature. And the magnitude of the moment was not lost on Deng, who said, “I will always remember this win as it is my first at a EuroBasket. I think we showed today that we have a great future ahead of us.”

Israel 91, Latvia 88 (Box Score)

Israel saved some face with this win but they still won’t advance out of group play. Lior Eliyahu had a team-high 26 points and Israel pounded Latvia inside, outscoring them 52-36 in the paint. That near-upset of Serbia a couple of days ago seems like more than just a momentary blip now, though.

After never so much as hearing of Latvia’s captain, Janis Blumis, before this competition, he can count us among his biggest fans going forward. He’s absolutely fearless and can shoot it from all over the floor, he scored a game-high 27 points and stroked four of his six shots from beyond the 3-point line, a trait that most of the standouts in international play possess.

Macedonia 72, Finland 70 (Box Score)

Our main man Bo McCalebb and his crew from Macedonia won their third in a row and locked down a spot in the competition’s next phase with this gritty win over Finland. McCalebb led the way with 18 points but it was the physical work done by captain Pero Antic (14 points and 19 rebounds) that made the biggest difference. It was his defensive rebounds in the final seconds that secured the win.

When you get outrebounded 44-27 it’s usually hard to keep the game as close as Finland did. Tuuki Kotti was the only player to log minutes for Finland and grab five or more rebounds. They had a chance to steal this game late but Antic came up with two crucial defensive rebounds in the last few seconds to seal the win Macedonia’s win.

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Donuts For Rubio In EuroBasket Opener

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Twelve games in one day is a bit much to chew on when you’ve been away from live game action for nearly two months.

We’re admittedly a little rusty around the hideout.

But we can’t thank the basketball gods enough for delivering us this smorgasbord of hoops when we needed it most. Day 1 of EuroBasket 2011 was filled with action and plenty of surprises, both good and bad.

In case you were worried, Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t lost a step since his triumphant playoff run and Finals MVP showing. Pau Gasol looked good and rested. And the host nation team, Lithuania, didn’t disappoint in their opener.

There was even a Ricky Rubio sighting this morning, although I’m still trying to figure out how he pulled off the performance he did. In fact, Rubio stole the show here at the hideout, posting donuts across the board (save for a couple of steals) in 16 uninspiring minutes in his international debut as a bona fide NBA player.

More on that later in the rundown of games we saw … (some more than others) …

Serbia 80, Italy 68 (Box Score)

You know it’s going to be a good competition when you tip off group play with a game like this one. Italy chewed into an 18-point deficit in time to make Serbia work for this one in the fourth quarter. Serbia made just nine of 26 shots from beyond the 3-point line to Italy’s 2-for-17, another advantage for a team that finished as the silver medalist in this competition in 2009. Having superior depth is what made the difference for Serbia as they got 30 points off the bench in the win.

  • Italy’s 18-10 lead early on didn’t hold up, not with center Andrea Bargnani contributing just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in the first half (he came off the bench). He warmed up after halftime and finished with a game-high 22 and nine rebounds. Danilo Gallinari turned his right ankle midway through the third quarter and came out of the game a couple of minutes later. He did return in the fourth.
  • Milan Macvan came off of the bench for Serbia and dropped 10 second-quarter points as they erased that early deficit. He chipped in with four more during an 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter to help put the game away. He found all the holes in the Italy’s zone defense, making six of his seven shots from the floor. As we learned from the Dallas Mavericks during the playoffs, bench play is often the difference between winning and losing in a tournament setting.
  • Serbia’s starting guards, Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic, put on a show of their own. They combined for 30 points and 12 assists and combined to shoot a wicked 6-for-10 from beyond the 3-point line.

Spain 83, Poland 78 (Box Score)

One Gasol is enough to keep defending champion Spain in the hunt for a repeat title. Having two, however, is a luxury that no doubt every other team in the competition would love to have. Pau Gasol scored 12 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter as Spain had to hold on to squeeze past Poland in the final seconds to win their opener. Marc Gasol finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes of action.

  • Rubio was still the one guy we were most eager to look at in this game and something was clearly missing from his game. He missed a wide-open, second-half layup and was not a factor in his limited minutes on the floor. Piling up zeros across the board the way he did after all the hype that has accompanied him the past months (and years) was definitely a disappointment.
  • Seeing Serge Ibaka work as a role player behind the Gasols was interesting, especially after seeing him play such a huge role for a Thunder team that made its way to the Western Conference finals during the NBA playoffs. Ibaka was his usual workmanlike self, though, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting in his 14 minutes.
  • HT-fave and former Hang Time Grizzlies point guard Juan Carlos Navarro is always a welcome sight on the court. We jokingly nicknamed him the “Stockbroker” a few years ago (the logic being that he’d look like a Wall Street-type in street clothes). It’s a term of endearment for a player that always shows up the way he did against Poland (23 points). His free throws and a crucial 3-pointer in the final seconds were the difference in what turned out to be a much tighter game than most expected.

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Elveda from Istanbul

ISTANBUL — If you were just looking for a little competitive basketball to tide you over until the NBA and European seasons begin, the 2010 FIBA World Championship more than delivered. We had late-game drama, brilliant individual performances, beautiful teamwork, and great basketball through and through.

Best of all, we had a gold medal game that put a young and small American team against a huge Turkey squad and their 15,000 ridiculously loud fans.

And the U.S. National Team answered all the questions with an impressive 81-64 victory over the hosts, who may have run out of gas after Saturday’s ridiculously thrilling victory over Serbia.

All the credit goes to Mike Krzyzewski and his team though. As I wrote in my story, the effort on defense and on the boards was incredible. This was for the gold medal and those guys came with more energy than they’d had in any of their previous eight games.

Heading into the game, there were probably some worries that Kevin Durant, after scoring 71 points on 25-for-44 shooting over the last two games, might have an off night. But KD carried them offensively once again, earning that MVP trophy that he was ready to concede to Luis Scola a few days ago.

Lamar Odom also had another big game in a big spot, recording his second straight double-double. And Russell Westbrook brought ridiculous energy and athleticism. Westbrook was thought to be on the roster bubble a few times in training camp, but he turned out to be the guy that best represented the identity of this team: fast, athletic and aggressive defensively.

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Turkey was a fantastic host. Though it would have been nice to visit one of the other three pool play cities, I was happy to spend my 2 1/2 weeks in Istanbul, a beautiful city with much to see and do. The traffic sucked (I joked with some people that Istanbul’s top export is exhaust fumes), but every other aspect of the trip was fantastic.

Well, except for the untimely death of my laptop on Sunday morning, causing me much frustration. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a computer to write my story and post this blog. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to accompany this text with some photos from my trip, because they were lost in the crash.

As beautiful as the sights of Istanbul are, it was equally enjoyable for me, as a basketball nut, to witness the atmosphere inside the Sinan Erdem Arena for every game that Turkey played. The reaction of the crowd to Kerem Tunceri’s game-winning layup on Saturday is something I’ll never forget. And I honestly got chills every time “12 Giant Men” or the Turkish national anthem was sung by the 15,000 strong.

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Lithuania Wins Bronze

Before the USA-Turkey finale, Lithuania beat Serbia, 99-88 to capture the bronze medal.

The key sequence came in the second quarter, when Lithuania used a 14-4 run to turn a three-point lead into a 13-point cushion. The run included four straight three-point possessions and two straight threes from Linas Kleiza.

After Andre Iguodala shut him down on Saturday, Kleiza broke out for 33 points on Sunday, including 12 in that pivotal second quarter. Nenad Krstic struggled for Serbia, finishing with just five points on 2-for-7 from the field.

Lithuania came here with a young team, and they definitely overachieved, going 8-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the U.S. They will host next year’s European Championship, certainly taking some momentum from this tournament into that one.

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Argentina Takes Fifth

In the afternoon, Argentina outlasted Spain, 86-81 to finish fifth. Spain came all the way back from being down 25 in the middle of the third quarter to tie the game with two minutes left in the fourth. But they missed on a couple of opportunities to take the lead and scored just one point in their final five possessions.

Pablo Prigioni hit the dagger for Argentina, who was led by 27 points from Carlos Delfino and 22 from Scola. Rudy Fernandez led all scorers with 31 points on 11-for-13 shooting.

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All-Tournament Team

Kevin Durant (USA), Linas Kleiza (LTU), Luis Scola (ARG), Milos Teodosic (SER), Hedo Turkoglu (TUR)

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So, Elveda (I think and hope that means “goodbye”) from Istanbul. It’s been a great trip and I hope to be back here again sometime down the line. If you’ve got any questions or comments, please send an e-mail via the link below.

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More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

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

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.

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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…

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World Championship Eve

ISTANBUL – Day 2 in Turkey. And with Game 1 of the World Championship just 24 hours away, the U.S. National Team had a light, no-contact practice at the Abdi Ipekci Arena. They went over their offense and defense and then got in some shooting.

Rudy Gay: “Today, we really got into detail. We were trying to go over our sets and make sure when we go into the real games that we know what we are doing.”

Croatia should provide a decent test for the U.S. on Saturday (Noon ET, ESPN Classic). They finished sixth at last year’s Eurobasket even though they were missing two of their most talented players, Marko Tomas and Bojan Bogdanovic, a 21 year old draft prospect on the wing.

NBA fans should remember point guards Roko Ukic (85 games with the Raptors and Bucks) and Zoran Planinic (three seasons with the Nets), who can both get into the lane and make plays. Tomas will likely be their top scorer for the tournament, but big man Ante Tomic will be the guy that the U.S. will have to worry most about.

Tomic, who was drafted in the second round by the Jazz in 2008, is 7-foot-2 and has solid offensive skills, but he’s not too strong. A Tomic-Lamar Odom matchup could be fascinating to watch.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski on Croatia: “We have a lot of respect for them. Their guard play is outstanding. Ukic is one of the best international guards and (Marko) Popovic is just a veteran. There size is a concern, they have five guys who were 6-11 or above so we don’t have as big of team. They have a rich tradition and we have a lot of respect for who they are.”

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Need a preview of the World Championship? Here’s a written version and here’s a video version…

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Saturday’s game of the day looks to be the Russia-Puerto Rico matchup in Ankara at 11:30 a.m. ET, which could decide third and fourth place in Group C.

NBA TV will have Greece-China at 9 a.m. ET and France-Spain at 2 p.m. ET. If you’re in the U.S., you can watch every game on ESPN3. Elsewhere, you can watch them at fibatv.com.

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The U.S. team had a three-car police escort to practice today. It wasn’t quite the experience the 2008 team had in Shanghai (when police blocked every entrance to the highway for several miles on the way to the airport), but a three-car escort for practice is still impressive.

Of course, the police escort took the long way to the arena.

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The Anti-Atkins Diet.

After practice, I went with the NBA Entertainment crew for an authentic Turkish family-style lunch, which was terrific.

If you’re on the Atkins diet, Istanbul is not the place for you. The meal started out with big plates of bread (round rolls with seeds) and a variety of sauces and concoctions for you to eat the bread with (see the photo to the right). Great stuff.

And then came the main course, plates of four different types of meat (beef, spicy beef, chicken and pork), served with peppers, rice and fries.

Most of us in the group are passing on dinner tonight, because lunch was so filling.

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Remember the beard-growing contest a few years ago between DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden? I think Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala are doing something similar, except with the hair on top of their heads. Both are letting it grow out this summer, but I think Rudy is winning.

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In case you missed it yesterday, FIBA handed out suspensions for the Greece-Serbia brawl. Nenad Krstic (Serbia) got three games, while Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Antonis Fotsis (Greece) and Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Greece) got two games each.

Both teams should be able to withstand the suspensions fairly easily. Serbia’s first three games are against Angola, Germany and Jordan, the three weakest teams in Group A. Greece’s first two games are against China and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is tough, but their best players are in the backcourt, so the absences of their two big men shouldn’t hurt too much.

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Turkish lesson of the day: Anlamıyorum = I don’t understand.

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