It was far from a vintage performance but Serbia never looked in trouble as they cruised past Iceland in Berlin, writes Emmet Ryan
With the rest day in the books there was a relaxed air to proceedings in the arena albeit one that was probably too much for Serbia’s liking. Sasha Djordjevic certainly thought so as he repeatedly called timeouts late in the first half with his side lacking concentration, forcing him to keep his starters in far longer than he would have liked.
There was a change to the schedule for Tuesday’s action in Berlin as Serbia’s clash with Iceland, originally meant to be the final game of the day, was moved to the opening slot. The Iceland fans were in full song early and still large in number despite opening the competition 0-2. This was their first trip to the big show and they were staying for every minute of it. Unfortunately for them they were up against a well rested Serbian team in the Mercedes-Benz Arena. The Serbs quickly jumped into a 6-0 lead and just when Pavel Ermolinski looked to be opening Iceland’s account, Nikola Kalinic jumped in with the block.
Iceland settled but Serbia looked to have little difficulty working out how to play around Iceland’s super small ball. Essentially Serbia were getting the game, or at least the opening, that Italy had wanted against Iceland. Djordjevic’s side were in control early and midway through the first half they looked well in control. Iceland of course, being Iceland, weren’t going to disappear quite so quickly and rallied to get tighter to the Serbs just as it looked like the group leaders were going to run away with it. A Nemanja Nedovic three however Serbia back on track. Serbia were on top at the end of the first but were probably disappointed to only lead 24-16 after dominating large swathes of the opening frame.
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If Iceland’s object in the early going of the second quarter was to frustrate Serbia than they certain got off to an ideal start as the World Cup silver medalists struggled to score in the early going. Jakob Sigurdarson cut the gap to 5 briefly as the North Atlantic side sought to chip away as the Serbian advantage. Ognjen Kuzmic finally made the lead double digits midway through the frame. Iceland kept scrapping, pursuing errant passes by Serbia with venom as they continued to frustrate an opponent that was perhaps taking this game a little too casually. Kuzmic however was a a walking mis-match and the NBA champion had his way with the shorter Icelandic players inside. At the half, despite Iceland still having plenty of fight in them, Serbia looked well on course for victory as they led 42-32.
The second half opened at the same pedestrian pace as the first with Djordjevic looking for some kid of rotation that would rouse his men from their slumber. This wasn’t a tired display, more one that was overly relaxed as though the Serbs were in an exhibition. Nedovic kept things ticking by on offence and Serbia slowly started to pull away. A Bogdan Bogdanovic three stretched the lead to 15 as Serbia looked to finally have the breathing room they needed to play, well, the way they had played this entire game only with their bench not their starters. It was a sign of the lifelessness in this game that the dance crew got the loudest cheer of the quarter. With 10 minutes to play this one was safely in the books as Serbia led 67-48.
The fourth quarter was a procession as Djordjevic finally got a chance to rest most of his starters. It wasn’t an ideal outing for Serbia but they moved to 3-0 with ease and are still well on course to top the group.