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Spain slow Serbia with tough defense, win Group J
WUHAN (China) - Spain showed their defense is for real as the 2006 champions slowed down Serbia's high octane offense with an 81-69 victory to claim first place in Group J of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.
TCL Player of the Game Ricky Rubio paced Spain with an individual World Cup high 19 points while Victor Claver chipped in 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks and Marc Gasol picked up 11 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists after just 2 points in his last game as Spain remained perfect at 5-0. Serbia came into the game having averaged 103.3 points and holding their opponents to just 62.5 points. But Spain also had averaged just 62.5 points allowed and Serbia could not solve the Spaniards despite Bogdan Bogdanovic scoring a game-high 26 points to go with 10 rebounds and 6 assists.
Turning point: Spain had already come out strong in the second half but Serbia's task was made even tougher when their star big man Nikola Jokic was ejected after two successive technical fouls with 6:40 minutes left in the third quarter. Spain used a 12-3 run after that to push the lead out to 63-42. Serbia were able to trim the gap to nine points a couple of times and it was only an eight-point lead with just under 2 minutes left. But Spain continually came up with big baskets when they needed them.
TCL Player of the Game: In addition to his 19 points, Rubio collected 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal as he would not let the Spanish side fail, picking up big shots, big rebounds or finding his teammates in good scoring spots.
Stats Don't Lie: Spain completely shut down Serbia's outside game, allowing just 3-of-19 for 16 percent while the Serbs committed 17 turnovers to Spain's 13 turnovers.
Bottom Line: Both of these teams were already destined for the Quarter-Finals but Spain's victory gives them first place in the group and a date with Poland, who finished second in Group I. That Quarter-Final will be played in Shanghai on Tuesday, September 10. Serbia meanwhile will head to Dongguan, where they will face Group I winners Argentina in the other Quarter-Final on the same day.
They said: "I congratulate my players for the terrific effort, the concentration they put into the game in implementing our game plan. At the same time I have to say that my admiration and respect for Serbia is so high. They are a great team, really well coached. And I have to say: Bogdan Bogdanovic is ridiculous. I mean, it’s unbelievable. This guy had 78 percent on 2s, 40 percent on 3s and 100 percent free throws; 10 rebounds, 6 assists. I mean he’s an unbelievable player. Saying that, again, we had a solid defensive performance. We hung in there when they came back, and they had to come back because they are so good. But we managed it with some good defensive play and a couple of buckets outside of the box - with pure creativity. Overall I think it was a good game. They were scoring over 100 and we kept them under 70. We are far away from the offensive talent we had in previous years. So if we want to compete against great teams we have to play not good defense but great defense. This is our fate. This is our road map. If we follow it, we can compete. In a single game you have a chance against anybody, but only if you play really, really top defense.” - Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo
“We played a really good game, really good defense. We started the game really hard, now we are happy and our minds are on Poland. They have a really good team with really talented players so we know that they can come back. But we stayed calm and we kept our defense at a high level so we controlled the rhythm against a really tall team.” - Spain guard Sergio Llull
“They were definitely the better team. They took us out of our game and out of our game plan in the second half, where we couldn’t respond to their change of defenses. We made some inexplicable turnovers and playing this kind of game with 17 turnovers makes it completely out of reach for any opponent, even for us. We played really, really hard in the second half. I didn’t like the stupid reaction of our player who should be on the floor. We can lose with him, why not, if the other team is better, but he should stay on the floor and be one of the leaders. We came back with heart and good defense. We took them out of their organization that they had in the first half. They were really executing really well. They were moving the ball really well, but our defensive mistakes in the second quarter were so obvious. You cannot allow this to happen to a team like Spain, a very experienced team, great point guards and even another point guard with Marc Gasol. They shortened their rotation, were better tonight and deserved to win the game.” - Serbian head coach Sasha Djordjevic
“They really kicked our ass today. We are not eliminated from the tournament and that's the good thing and the positive team from this game. They were a tough matchup for us and the more experienced team. I think we can only look at the best from this game.” - Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanovic