The Serbian national team held the lead virtually throughout their semifinal match with Turkey, but a mini-unraveling over the game’s final minutes and busted defensive coverage on Turkey’s final possession changed everything. Rather than the Serbians finishing their turbulent FIBA run with a finale against the Americans, they’ll be playing for Bronze, while the host nation tries to steal away the Gold.
Serbia played well, but Turkey hung in. The Turkish team kept the deficit reasonable, gave themselves a chance to win by using their depth, and seized the opportunity to take the lead by attacking the basket in the game’s closing seconds.
Serbia worked the ball to Novica Velickovic under the rim to gain a one-point lead with just 4.3 seconds remaining, leaving Turkey very little time to produce a quality attempt. Hedo Turkoglu received the inbound pass at halfcourt, and depending on who you ask, he either made a smart drop-pass to Kerem Tunceri on the wing or fumbled his way into a happy accident. Regardless of your interpretation, Tunceri turned Serbia’s over-aggressive defense against them, and drove straight to the rim on a team expecting to defend a jumper.
Serbia had one more chance to win the game, but their drawn-up oop attempt was sent back by Turkey’s (and now the Boston Celtics’) Semih Erden at the buzzer. Serbia’s game-long efforts were for naught, and the lead they fought so hard to protect and maintain over the game’s first three and a half quarters was worth nothing in the game’s final balance.
Tunceri (12), Turkoglu (16), Ender Arslan (12) and Omer Onan (14) all finished in double-figures for Turkey.
Milos Teodosic, who hit the go-ahead three for Serbia in the quarterfinal against Spain, finished with 13 points and 11 assists. Marko Keselj chipped in 18 points and seven rebounds, and Nenad Krstic had 15 and seven.
Turkey will now face Team USA in front of their home crowd tomorrow at 2:30 EST. The Americans are the definite favorites, and finished their semifinal game in completely different fashion; while Turkey clawed to keep up with Serbia before taking the game late in the fourth, Team USA kept Lithuania at arm’s length throughout most of their contest, and won by 15. Kevin Durant was simply dominant, and a Team USA defense spearheaded by Andre Iguodala completely shut down Linas Kleiza and the Lithuanian offense.
That defense will look to do the same against a pretty talented Turkish squad, and the smart money is on Team USA to take gold, even if Turkey won out in one of the tournament’s more entertaining games.