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Serbia edge out Croatia to reach Semi-Finals on Olympic debut
RIO DE JANEIRO (Rio 2016 Olympic Games) - Serbia defeated Croatia, 86-83, in the last Quarter-Final of the Olympic Basketball Tournament on Wednesday night to set up a Semi-Final clash with Australia.
In the closest game of the day, the Serbs saw a 14-point third quarter lead melt away in the final frame as the Croats got within one several times down the stretch. But with time running out on them, Serbia had to foul to stop the clock and Milos Teodosic and Nikola Jokic made good on their trips to the free-throw line in the final 18 seconds.
There was little to separate the two teams in the first half, with Serbia up 20-19 at the end of the opening period and Croatia taking a 38-32 advantage at the break.
Serbia took control thanks to a third quarter in which they outscored Croatia 34-14. They took their biggest lead of the night, 66-52, when Bogdan Bogdanovic buried a three-pointer with 22 seconds left in the period.
Croatia answered by going on a 22-7 run that got them within 74-73 on Darko Planinic's pair of free-throws with 3:26 remaining. Serbia stayed in front but Croatia were breathing down their neck.
Sasha Djordevic's side got a bit of breathing room when Miroslav Raduljica made the second of two foul shots to make it 79-75 with 27 seconds and that forced Croatia in having to foul intentionally to stop the clock but ultimately running out of time.
Turning Point: Had Serbia rolled to a comfortable win on the back of their impressive third quarter, a great turning point could have been in the shape of Raduljica's postering dunk over Dario Saric in transition for a 41-40 lead with 6:50 left to play in the period. Instead, the real turning point really came down to Serbia knocking down 6-of-6 free-throws in the dying seconds of the game.
Stats Don't Lie: Serbia got 39 points from their reserves, compared to 26 for Croatia. Bogdanovic (game-high 18 points before fouling out), Stefan Jovic (9 points and 4 rebounds) and Milan Macvan (8 points and 3 rebounds) each played key roles in the outcome of this game.
Hero: Teodosic and Jokic didn't have huge games offensively, the former going only 2-of-11 for 9 points and the latter 3-of-8 for 12 points. But Teodosic handed out 10 assists and both players stepped up when it counted the most, knocking down shots from the charity stripe with the game on the line.
The Bottom Line: Serbia will get another shot at Australia, who beat them 95-80 in Group A play. The Boomers have never reached a Gold Medal Game before. Serbia last played in the Olympic Final at the 1996 Atlanta Games under the flag of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
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