A EuorBasket record equalling 13 assists by Milos Teodosic spurred Serbia to a dominant win over Turkey in Berlin, Emmet Ryan reports
This was the performance that made a statement for Serbia, more than their win over Spain. We knew this was a team that could get it done in crunch time but on Wednesday in Berlin we saw why this team is considered a real threat to France for the title. There are just so many ways Serbia can hurt an opponent and its depth is almost unmatched in this competition. Serbia took on a somewhat tired Turkey team and ripped them apart from the off, scoring 43 points in the game’s first 15 minutes, to cruise to 4-0.
It wasn’t the heavy security presence everyone was expecting. A group of around 14 police were stationed just to the right of the media tribune but they seemed pretty relaxed from the off. Turkey and Serbia don’t get along right now when it comes to basketball, fans nearly came to blows at Women’s EuroBasket and Ergin Ataman is particularly disliked by Serbian fans. His name got booed when it was announced but not in the racouous way one feared. There was a slight extra level of attention from the services staff on site but, again, nothing wild. There were even parts of the stadium where Serbs and Turks sat together. After all the tension in the build-up, it seemed everyone was happy just to see a basketball game.
Offensively this got off to a solid start with Ali Muhammed and Milos Teodosic both happy to run at an aggressive pace. Serbia looked to force the quick turnover while Turkey brought the ruckus on D, an Ersan Ilyasonva block of Nikola Kalinic set their intent early but Kalinic landed from deep soon after to push Serbia into an early 6 pont advantage. Nemanja Bjelica’s dunk forced Ataman to call a timeout as Serbia claimed the best of the early exchanges. Another Kalinic three pushed the boat out further and Turkey were in a big hole already with only 7 minutes played.
This wasn’t wholly unexpected. Turkey’s new style is draining, the type of game that struggles without a rest day and while not the exhausted line-up that took on Spain this side still looked incapable of replicating the speed that saw them past Germany on Tuesday. With Miroslva Raduljica controlling the interior, this one looked pretty clear at the end of the first. Serbia led 30-14.
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Cedi Osman has been the one Turksih player who seems to have the energy for Ataman’s style on back to back outings. He opened the second quarter with a pair of buckets, a block, and a steal. The young Efes man wasn’t getting a great deal of help however, on;y Ilyasova and Muhammed had added anything else to the scoreboad for Turkey through the game’s opening 13 minutes before Semih Erden finally opened his account. A cross court pass by Teodosic set up Stefan Markovic for a wide open three as Serbia moved into a 21 point lead midway through the quarter. This was the game Sasha Djordjevic wanted a day ago, now he could seriously think about giving his best players oodles of rest before the Italy game on Thursday. At the half the group leaders were comfortably on top 53-35.
Teodosic was in imperious form and had his double double in the books midway through the third quarter, scoring selectively and dishing assists for fun. Turkey were making some headway in cutting Serbia’s lead in this one but that hard far more to do with Djordjevic’s charges taking the foot off the gas than any new found spark in Ataman’s side. This style Ataman deploys isn’t easy in group play. A Turkish journalist I met at half time wasn’t happy at the prospect of a 3-2 record, assuming victory over Iceland, possibly landing them against France in the next round but doesn’t take into account the wider picture here. Turkey with a day off is a completely different opponent, naturally one that won’t be favoured against France, but still a side that has more zest than we saw today. The style suits Ataman’s best line-up and gives them their best chance to win. More importantly, it’s one the up and coming generation of Turkish ballers can buy into. The 12 Giant men are becoming a fluid unit that is far less predictable. If a best performance at EuroBasket this decade is the result, it’s a pretty good step forward. A year ago, playing their old style of ball, Turkey were convincingly beaten by Lithuania in the World Cup quarter finals. This Turkish team looks like it could more than live with Lithuania now and near any opponent in Europe. Back to backs are going to hurt while in this transition phase but anyone seriously watching this team has to be happy with the direction they are heading.
With 10 minutes to go Serbia held a 71-59 lead. A couple of early scores for Serbia ended the slightest chance of a Turkish surge and both sides could look ahead to tomorrow. Serbia may well have secured top spot without stepping on the floor tomorrow, so long as Germany beat Italy, while Turkey will undoubtedly make the most of their rest between now and the clash with Iceland on the final day of action.