Serbia looked flat and predictable on offence as a relaxed Russia side pulled off an upset on the second day of action in Group D of EuroBasket 2017. Despite a big personal outing for Boban Marjanovic, Serbia were flat on offence throughout the contest and will lament a poor display that could end up costing them top spot in the group. Emmet Ryan reports from Istanbul
We got a whole lot of Alexey Shved early on in this one as a 10-0 run from Russia caught Serbia off guard in the early going. Sasha Djordevic’s charges looked a tad weary after their battle like Latvia yesterday while Russia’s tough brain melter against Turkey seemed to have given them confidence. That was the big one to win for Russia, they needed to get off on the right foot to avoid another nervy run through group play and they came into this one with the pressure off. It was obviously having the right impact as they looked happy to run with the Serbs early.
Boban Marjanovic came in to steady the ship and he went right after Timofey Mosgov in smash mode. A personal 7-0 run got the job done quickly as Russia’s early advantage was erased. It was a fantastic opening stint for the Detroit Pistons big man. Having grown out of the novelty luxury into an intelligent big who knows how best to use his power, he was playing with the Russians. In 5.56 on the floor, he racked up 9 points and 2 rebounds. Serbia led Russia 21-18 after the first.
Serbia fell asleep early in the second but with the pace dwindling it wasn’t all that damaging. The one concern was the ineffectiveness of Bogdan Bogdanovic through the first half, with the Sacramento Kings man looking a touch sluggish after a lights out display on Friday. He was starting to show glimpses of the Bogdan we know as the half wore on but the pedestrian nature of this half was begging for a Bogdan takeover.
Russia however were playing much smarter with Nikita Kurbanov embracing his enhanced role, from what is already a pretty substantial role at CSKA Moscow, and just plain out-smarting the Serbian players around him. The Bobinator came back in and went to work. Serbia weren’t in danger of letting this get out of hand yet but they were struggling for ideas. He drew a couple of fouls but missed a few free throws. Still, it was enough to slow the Russian momentum going into the break. At the half Russia led 40-38.
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The presumed half-time wake up call didn’t seem to get through to Serbia as the game resumed. Shved hit a three as, once again, Russia looked far more focused on this battle. Then, finally, Bogdanovic made a three of his own to rouse him comrades. The slow nature of this game was still playing right into Russia’s hands but at least Bogdan had emerged from his slumber.
No surprises as to what Djordevic’s next move. Back to the Bobinator. Mosgov was up for him this time, a little too much as he ran right into Marjanovic as Russia tried a fast break. Neither man felt much from the collision but it was enough for the refs to call an offensive foul and enrage Mosgov. Boban started clearing the road for Bogdan as Serbia sought to find some kind of rhythm. He did his bit in his shift but Serbia still had a glaring issue when he sat. Ognjen was losing the battle and Vladimir Stimac was only being used sparingly.
Bogdanovic was the only one doing anything positive on offence for Serbia while Russia were nailing threes for fun. Russia were growing in confidence as the game wore on. There were in this and they knew it. With 10 minutes to play it was Russia in charge, 58-51.
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Every time Serbia needed a lift, there was only one option. Marjanovic came in and went right to work at the start of the quarter to give his side some offensive life. He was driving inside, whipping passes out to the elbow, and even fixing the net after it got tangled after a free throw. The Bobinator was doing was he did with grace to match his power.
It worked really well right up until Mosgov came back in with his eyes squarely set on Boban. He went at him once, and scored. He goes a second, same result. Timeout for Serbia. The switch was made, back to Kuzmic. The result was no different. Mosgov went looking for meat and when he couldn’t get Kuzmic, Macvan would do nicely. The big bump to draw the and-1. Russia were back on top. Back to Boban. Again. Russia had seen this movie so many times today and they were getting through it.
The lead grew to 9 as Russia soared with confidence. At this point they appeared to be playing within themselves, letting Serbia try to force things as they sat back with clear heads to pick their spots. Only then did Vladimir Lucic start to re-emerge offensively, giving the Russian’s something to worry about and remind them about the fragility of their advantage.
Still the Russians held their nerve, letting Serbia take the risks. A Bogdanovic rally gave them a scare at the end but Russia held on, just, to take the W.
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