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No match for Saric and Bogdanovic, as Croatia outshine France, Lithuania in Orleans
ORLEANS (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - Croatia picked up steam ahead of FIBA EuroBasket 2017 with a successful showing in a three-team tournament in Orleans, downing tournament hosts France and strong Lithuanian opposition to begin their preparations in high spirits.
Paced by the unstoppable duo of Dario Saric and Bojan Bogdanovic, the Aco Petrovic-coached side edged France 92-87 on Tuesday evening before knocking down Lithuania 82-80 the following day to clinch the number one spot among the three sides.
"We got two victories, but right now the results aren't the most important thing. It's all about practicing and getting better. The most important thing is that we were able to play with a full rotation of players and everyone got a feel for the game," said the 35-year-old veteran guard Marko Popovic, enjoying his return to the national team.
In both games, it was a two-man show for Croatia, with Bogdnaovic leading the way against France with a game-high 22 points and Saric posting a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Similar synergy was on display in a win over Lithuania, as Saric got hot with 28 points and 9 rebounds, while Bogdanovic chipped in with an efficient 21-point game.
According to the team's head coach Aleksandar Petrovic, performances like these should become a staple for the rest of the summer for Croatia, all the way into FIBA EuroBasket 2017, especially with the playing style he envisions.
"The ball will be in the hands of Saric and Bogdanovic; we started with a somewhat different concept compared to other teams," said the 58-year-old tactician, who has invested all of his trust in the team's leaders.
Petrovic is more than ready to give the star pairing all the necessary space for improvisation, saying that is where the two players are most effective and that it will ultimately benefit the team.
"I cannot take Saric's creation away," said Petrovic. "He's playing like he does in the NBA. Sometimes that kind of role is just not suited for offensive schemes, but he has the imagination and individual skills to create for himself and others. And we know all about Bojan – he's our leading scorer. When it comes to hierarchy, our team is way different than others. That's how we'll keep playing."
After a promising start for Croatia of the preparations, coach Petrovic and his side will play the next couple of friendly games against Slovenia and Ukraine on home soil in Opatija, as they continue to get ready for the FIBA EuroBasket 2017.