Throughout EuroBasket 2017, we’ll be providing you with news and notes from games involving Dario Saric and Furkan Korkmaz, the two members of the 76ers playing in this year’s competition.
Saric, Croatia Fall Short Against Favorite Spain
Throughout the opening week of EuroBasket, Croatia and Spain have clearly established themselves as the top teams in Group C, and as gold medal contenders in the competition’s field overall (veteran Spain probably more so). Their anticipated preliminary round showdown Tuesday in Romania didn’t disappoint.
Dario Saric championed an admirable Croatian effort, but it was one of the forward’s old allies who assumed a pivotal role in steering Spain to safety for a 79-73 victory. The loss was Croatia’s first, while Spain improved to 4-0, ensuring them the C group’s No. 1 seed.
Saric, in nearly 37 minutes of action, was an energetic, two-way force, manufacturing 18 points (6-14 fg, 1-4 3fg, 5-6 fg) and 13 rebounds. The double-double was his second of the tournament. He added five assists, two steals, and a pair of blocks as well.
Sergio Rodriguez’s impact on Tuesday’s outcome, meanwhile, was a noteworthy one. The Spaniard, who spent last season as a teammate of Saric with the Sixers, tallied nine points in the fourth quarter. He nailed a triple at the four-minute mark to give Spain the lead for good, before later connecting on a 2-pointer with 38 seconds to go that moved the margin back to three.
A member of Spain’s EuroBasket gold medal roster in 2015, Rodriguez finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and three assists, to go along with a stellar plus-17 rating.
Croatia enjoyed a spirited start to Tuesday’s tilt, thanks in large part to the aggressive tone that Saric set. He quickly got involved defending the lane, and, on offense, came out firing, sticking a pair of mid-range jumpers (both over Marc Gasol) in the opening five minutes to stake Croatia to an 8-0 lead.
Saric’s assertiveness Tuesday was especially valuable on the interior, where he offered a rugged presence to counter a Spanish front line stacked with NBA-caliber talent. Saric readily attacked the glass on both ends of the floor, and, in the first quarter in particular, once again proved to be a foil for Pau Gasol (flashes of Rio ‘16…).
Saric went into intermission with eight points, five rebounds, and Croatia trailing, 38-32.
Fortunately for Croatia, Saric gave his country more of the same in the second half. On one standout possession midway through the third frame, he snared two offensive rebounds, and drifted to the baseline for a fadeaway jump shot. The sequence secured for Saric his second double-double of EuroBasket.
Moments earlier, Saric delivered arguably his most dazzling pass – if not his most dazzling play – since the tournament began last week.
Not only was the feed a beauty, it seemed to get Bojan Bogdanovic going, after the Indiana Pacers guard and leading Croatian scorer was kept in check in the first half.
In Tuesday’s fourth quarter, Saric once again emerged at a crucial juncture. With 90 seconds remaining in regulation, he was assigned to take four free throws after Spain was hit with a pair of technical fouls. The NBA All-Rookie First Team nominee sunk each foul shot, bringing Croatia within one. Rodriguez then answered with a 2, setting the stage for Spain to close the contest on a 7-2 spurt.
Korkmaz, Turkey Stay Alive
Entering Tuesday’s pairing against Belgium with two losses in EuroBasket play, Turkey needed a victory to punch its ticket to the final 16. Lucky for the host nation of this year’s competition, Furkan Korkmaz was ready to contribute, and he did, in clutch fashion, with his 14 points looming large in Turkey’s 78-65 win.
Returning to the floor following a brief substitution break midway through the fourth quarter, Korkmaz ripped off seven points and assisted on another basket amid a 12-0 run that unknotted a 60-60 tie. The 20-year old started the spurt by sinking four free throws in the span of 25 seconds, then later continued it by draining an open 3-pointer from the corner that widened the gap to double figures, 70-60.
Representing a recurring pattern from Turkey’s first week at EuroBasket, Korkmaz Tuesday took on weighty responsibilities late in the contest, despite not starting it. His first stint didn’t come until the beginning of the second quarter, yet he served a catalyst nonetheless. Within five minutes, he had scored six points, helping Turkey reclaim a comfortable advantage.
Korkmaz has now reached double-figures in three consecutive outings, and is the fourth-leading scorer on the Turkish roster, posting 10.8 points (60.9 fg%, 4-9 3fg) per tilt.
• A day after falling to Croatia in a hard-fought, 76-72 loss, Montenegro bounced back for a key victory to keep hopes alive for a berth in the EuroBasket Round of 16. Nik Vucevic submitted an especially pivotal performance, eruptingn for 17 points and 14 rebounds in a vital 88-75 win over the Czech Republic.
• Having competed on back-to-back days for the second time since EuroBasket began, Croatia is slated to rest Wednesday. Saric and his countrymen will then close out the group phase of tournament Thursday in a meeting with the Czech Republic (1-3), which endured a third straight loss Tuesday to Montenegro.
• Turkey, too, will be off Wednesday, only to finish up group play Thursday against Kristaps Porzingis and Latvia. Porzingins, the No. 4 selection in the 2015 draft, has been one of the standout performers of EuroBasket’s first week. The big man ranks seventh in scoring, at 21.0 points per game, while also averaging 5.0 rebounds.
** Live video streams of all EuroBasket 2017 games can be viewed the ESPN3 / WatchESPN platform, as well as http://www.livebasketball.tv.