Jokic posts double-double as Serbia survive epic fightback from Turkey
ISTANBUL (Turkey) - Serbia scored the final seven points of the game to fend off an epic fightback from Turkey and win 79-72 on the road in front of a record crowd for a World Cup European Qualifiers game in Turkey, of 15, 556.
Svetislav Pesic's team managed to prevent another famous sporting comeback in Istanbul to complete a perfect window having seen a lead as large as 21 points wiped out in the second half.
Turning point: Serbia produced a near flawless first half as they led by 19 points as Nikola Kalinic beat the buzzer from inside his own half. However, Turkey rallied through their star trio of Cedi Osman, Furkan Korkmaz and Alperen Sengun as they eventually tied the game at 72-72. Kalinic responded with a huge triple before a later offensive putback from Nikola Jokic put the finishing touches on the win.
Game heroes: Jokic made it look easy at times and put together a clinic in the paint with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting in just 11 minutes of action in the first half. It was a slightly different story after the break as Jokic mostly sat on the bench watching Serbia's huge lead evaporate, but came up with an important score late on to finish with 24 points and 10 rebounds. There were also telling contributions from Kalinic and Marko Guduric.
Stats don't lie: Turkey's starters combined for 65 of their 72 points but ran out of steam down the stretch after a huge effort in the second half. The hosts were down at 27 percent from three-point range and it was Serbia who made the big shots count in the final two minutes of the game.
Bottom line: The August window was bordering on make-or-break for Serbia with huge games with Greece and Turkey - they've beaten them both and reignited their campaign to move back to .500. In contrast, back-to-back defeats for Turkey dent their hopes of making it to the World Cup with a 2-4 record with the reverse fixture taking place in the next window in November.