Serbia had to keep their starters in for a little longer than expected but eventually they eased to victory over a gallant Great Britain side to formally book their spot in the second round of EuroBasket 2017. Emmet Ryan reports from Istanbul on an entertaining if somewhat predictable contest
As expected this one started with a whole lot of shooting. That’s what you get with a Great Britain game. There will be shots. Lots of shots. It was the type of game Bogdan Bogdanovic needed to settle. After struggling in the early going against both Russia and Turkey, Bogdanovic had time to find his shots early and picked up a few boards along the way. Serbia won’t get many games this free flowing but it’s the type of confidence booster they needed on offence after two brutal encounters coming into this.
Once more, Gabe Olaseni was playing like a man who should be playing at EuroCup level on a regular basis. Easily picking up 6 rebounds early, Olaseni was showing that he is more than a finesse player and can use his on court intelligence in a physical manner. After 10 minutes it was Serbia on top 22-14 but, as ever, Britain knew they had the scorers to scare them.
The buckets kept coming. Great Britain games are reliable for scoring and not an awful lot of defence. Luke Nelson was back after resting with an injury on Monday and he got on the scoreboard quickly enough. Serbia weren’t worried, they were getting all the open looks they wanted in a game that had the feel of a scrimmage where neither side wanted to force things too much on one another. It’s not an insult to Great Britain, their game requires this level of openness to be effective.
Just when it looked like Serbia might open up too much of a gap, Britain got the offensive flourish their game deserved. Teddy Okerafor nailed a three to force a timeout from Sasha Djordjevic. Britain’s excellent deep game was keeping this one interesting as half-time neared. Serbia held a 47-38 lead at the break, with plenty for both sides to reflect on.
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Whatever element of a contest was left in this one disappeared quickly in the third quarter as Serbia went on a big scoring run to start the second half, easing into a 19 point lead. Britain were able to stop the bleeding but Serbia now had the cushion they wanted. Djordjevic could take it easy on his starters and give them some extra rest before the off day on Wednesday. With 10 minutes to play Serbia were up 65-55 and well on course for the win.
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Bogdanovic came in to start the final frame, flirting with a triple double, and made a quick steal and dunk to push Serbia further out in front. Nice as the individual achievement would be, Djordjevic didn’t want to have to overuse his primary offensive weapon. He eventually finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 steals for the day.
Britain were stopping Serbia by turning this one into a rout. Throughout this tournament there have been two positive dependables with GB: Olaseni will shine and they will get buckets. Serbia were more respectful of the threat than their previous opponents but the result was still the same.
Serbia took the W and now have one eye on first place. It’s a good spot to land in after the battles they waged early in this group.
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