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’s Double-Double Propels Croatia into Knockout Round
With a spot in the EuroBasket 2017 knockout round already secured entering Thursday’s group stage finale against the Czech Republic, there was little at stake for Croatia, aside from seeding.
So, head coach Aco Petrovic, in an effort to seemingly get the rest of his roster more reps before the elimination phase began, decided to roll out a starting line-up consisting of reserves. That meant that for the first time this tournament, Dario Saric would be used off the bench.
As the multi-faceted big man has proven over the course of his career, whether in Europe or the NBA, changing circumstances rarely affect his ability to produce. That dynamic held true again Thursday, as Saric made the most of limited action, churning out 18 points and 10 rebounds in Croatia’s one-sided 107-69 win over the Czech Republic.
A force on the interior, Saric converted all five of his field goals from 2-point territory, and went 8 for 10 on his foul shots. Thursday’s double-double was his second in a row, and third overall, tying him with Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania) and Gabe Olaseni (Great Britain) for EuroBasket’s highest total.
Croatia is idle for the next two days – its longest layoff yet. The club will now shift sites from Romania to Turkey, where in Istanbul, Saric and Co. will have a Round of 16 pairing Sunday (Croatia, which earned the 2-seed from Group C, will go up against the yet-to-be-determined 3-seed from Group D).
After watching Croatia’s back-ups establish a modest lead Thursday, Saric subbed in for the first time at the 4 minute, 23 second mark of the opening quarter. He then proceeded to stay out there for the rest of the half, helping the Croatians extend their margin to 14, 54-40, at the break.
Upon taking the floor, Saric right away appeared to have a sense he could handle the Czech Republic’s relatively undersized front line. He attacked the lane aggressively, and was rewarded with multiple free throw opportunities, one of which came as a result of an impressive jump-hook and-1.
Saric strung together another strong sequence late in Thursday’s second period. Following a defensive rebound, he took a couple dribbles, zipped a one-handed pass down the court to a cutting Dragan Bender, who received the feed in stride for an uncontested finger roll. On Croatia’s next possession, Saric powered his way to the cup for a lay-up.
Although technically not a starter Thursday, Saric did get the nod at power forward at the outset of the second half. Much like his approach prior to intermission, Saric continued to pound away in the key, and he continued to have success.
Towards the end of his stint against the Czech Republic, Saric summoned up two impressive scores. One was a transition dunk – the slam being somewhat of a rarity in Saric’s arsenal – and the other his second conventional 3-point play of the day.
When Saric was relieved by the Croatian second-string unit at the 4:03 mark of the third quarter, he had logged 22 consecutive minutes of regulation play, which was all he ended up getting Thursday.
Korkmaz, Turkey Wrap Up Group Play vs. Latvia
Thanks to a 13-point win over Belgium Tuesday, Turkey assured itself of a Round of 16 game in front of its home fans this weekend. Nevertheless, the team doesn’t seem content to settle entering its final outing of the EuroBasket group phase.
Osman is Turkey’s leading scorer, at 16.0 points per game. The 22-year old, along with Furkan Korkmaz (10.8 ppg), is viewed as one of the promising young prospects capable of ushering in a new era of success for the Turkish national program.
And yes, Osman is right. Turkey’s tilt Thursday should pose a great challenge, indeed. Latvia has compiled a 3-1 record, and received excellent contributions from Kristaps Porzingis, and the Bertans brothers, all of whom are averaging double-figures in scoring, and at least four rebounds per game.
Tip-off is slated for 1:45 PM EST.
• Saturday, the top eight nations from Groups A and B will square off in the first batch of EuroBasket’s knockout contests. Slovenia faces Ukraine, France battles Germany, Italy meets Finland, and Greece goes up against Lithuania. Slovenia was the only country in the 24-team field to go unbeaten in group play.
• Russia, Croatia’s likely opponent Sunday, guaranteed itself no worse than the 3-seed in Group D, courtesy of an 82-70 triumph over Great Britain Thursday. Former Sixer Alexey Shved nailed 6 of 9 3-point attempts, en route to posting 30 points. The Russians were 4-1 in the group stage.
** Live video streams of all EuroBasket 2017 games can be viewed the ESPN3 / WatchESPN platform, as well as http://www.livebasketball.tv.