Saturday was the most interesting day of the round of 16, two very interesting games between three good teams (Spain, Greece and Serbia) and one solid one (Croatia). Here’s a little roundup.
Spain 80, Greece 72. There was some pretty basketball early on in this one and it became clear that the team that figured out how to stop the other first was going to win this one. That turned out to be Spain, who went to a zone the last 10 minutes of the game that stumped the Greeks.
It was some smart coaching from Spain — they had success with the zone for a stretch in the second quarter but went back to man-to-man and actually fell behind by six points during the third, then went to the zone with the game on the line late. If they had just stuck with the zone, the Greeks might have figured it out.
Ricky Rubio looks good running the offense but he still needs a more consistent shot. He helped Juan Carlos Navarro look good on his way to 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting.
Serbia 73, Croatia 72. Really exciting if not well executed game to start off the knockout round.
Serbia seemed to be in control with just a few minutes to go and up seven, and they had Nenad Krstic to thank for it. He finished with a team high to 16. But Croatia tied it up thanks in large part to some Marko Popovic threes.
Serbia held a three-point lead in a free-throw shooting contest late until a Croatia basket, then Croatia stole a Serbian inbound pass. The ball went to Popovic who was fouled and went to the line, down one. He missed the first and hit the second, so with 11.6 seconds left the game was tied. Then Croatia had a terrible defensive lapse and a back-screen led to a layup for Serbia and a two-point lead.
Then Serbia did something you basically never see in the NBA — they intentionally fouled a Croatian, sending him to the line with the chance to tie it up. Popovic was at the line and he did it, tying the game.
Serbia’s ball, 5.6 seconds left and Serbia’s Aleksandar Rasic got the ball and tried to go the distance, and when a Croatian defender slipped he fouled Rasic in the paint, sending him to the line with a second to go.
Rasic made the first, intentionally missed the second and that was the ballgame.
Serbia gets out with the win, but if they are going to beat Spain next game they are going to have to play a lot better.