Over the course of their stints in EuroBasket 2017, Dario Saric and Furkan Korkamz – the 76ers’ two representatives in the tournament – acquitted themselves well, emerging as impact players. Their efforts, however, weren’t enough to advance their countries’ medal bids.
Croatia and Turkey both suffered losses Sunday in Round of 16 knockout contests. Saric and Croatia, which entered the elimination stage as the No. 2 seed from Group C, endured a 101-78 setback to Russia, while Korkmaz and Turkey went down to favorite Spain, 73-56.
In virtually all of our previous “EuroBasket Update” articles, we’ve led off with notes about Saric, mainly as a nod to his seniority, and because the 23-year old forward was given a larger role with his respective club. For this last report on the event, though, it would be a disservice to not give top billing to Korkmaz’s inspired performance in Turkey’s finale.
Throughout the opening stage of EuroBasket, which encompassed five games, Turkish head coach Ufuk Sarica used Korkmaz exclusively as a reserve, and that dynamic didn’t change Sunday. Also unchanged was the instant energy the 20-year old swingman managed to bring off the bench, which was especially the case against Spain.
Playing in front of a boisterous, capacity crowd at Sinan Erdem Arena in Istanbul, EuroBasket’s host city, Korkmaz first subbed in at the 2 minute, 45 second mark of the first quarter. He quickly drew a couple fouls, and nailed two free throws, but it was in the ensuing frame that the 26th overall choice of the 2016 draft went off.
At the outset of the second period, with his squad down 11 and in desperate need of a spark, Korkmaz sunk a floater for his first basket of the day. Moments later, he hit the Spaniards with a similar move again. The maneuver already looks like it could be one of his favorites.
Turkey’s next trip down, Korkmaz – ever active, both with the ball in his hands and without it – received credit for an offensive rebound, plus a tip in. The possession after that, his savvy baseline cut behind an unsuspecting Spanish defense yielded an impressive, athletic, and emphatic finish.
The slam both culminated and capped an explosive stretch in which Korkmaz scored eight straight points for Turkey in less than four minutes. By the time the first half had come to a close, he had also buried a stepback in the face of Pau Gasol, EuroBasket’s new all-time leading scorer, and assisted on another field goal.
Korkmaz had a hand in 13 of Turkey’s final 15 points of the stanza, and went into the locker room as the game’s leading scorer, with 12 points.
Down eight at intermission, and seemingly encouraged by the lift that Korkmaz brought to the floor, the coach Sarica decided to throw the youngster out there to begin the third quarter. The shuffle paid off, as Korkmaz helped boost the Turks’ defensive intensity. He produced three points in the third, all on free throws stemming from a foul drawn from behind the arc.
After getting some rest at the outset of the fourth quarter, Korkmaz returned to the court with eight minutes to go in regulation. Once again, he proved a catalyst, first draining a top-of-the-key fadeaway to cut Turkey’s deficit to single digits. Then, he summoned up this dramatic 3-pointer, applying that much more pressure on unbeaten Spain.
The clutch deposit put Korkmaz at 20 points, which wound up being not only the game-high, but Korkmaz’s highest ever in a EuroBasket outing.
From there, Spain flicked a switch, rattling off 10 of the next 12 points to secure victory.
In all, Korkmaz averaged 10.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 21.6 minutes in six games at EuroBasket. He converted 53.8 percent of his field goal attempts, while knocking down 5 of 15 perimeter tries.
The experience seemed to be a memorable one for Korkmaz, who signed with the Sixers in July.
As for Saric, for as exceptional an individual run as he had in the group phase of EuroBasket, his sixth and final appearance was a tough one (many of his Croatian teammates could say the same). The big man was limited to 13 points on 3 for 14 shooting. He added two rebounds, an assist, and a steal in Croatia’s loss to Alexey Shved (27 pts, 12 ast) and Russia.
This year’s EuroBasket was Saric’s third. He posted his best numbers yet at the competition, generating 14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He hit 5 of 19 threes, and manufactured three double-doubles, second-most in the field.
Back stateside, Korkmaz and Saric’s NBA head coach was keeping tabs on things overseas. In respect to Korkmaz, Brett Brown said that his athleticism and bounce have stood out.
“I think the experience he had with us and playing in [summer league] helped jump start what has been a pretty impressive tournament,” Brown said last week. “We look forward to helping him with his body, and getting him back here in Philadelphia.”
Seeing Saric hold his own, at any level, was nothing new to Brown.
“He was raised to play basketball,” said Brown. “His mom did it, his dad did it, the country loves the sport. He’s been recognized as the country’s best player for a while. He’s been doing this at an international level for a long time. Him going back and doing what he’s been doing, it doesn’t surprise me.”
EuroBasket continues through Sunday, when both the championship final and bronze medal games will be played.