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…