01 - 18
September 2022
15 Nikola Jokic (SRB)
Game Report
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Serbia hold off Israel to stay perfect behind super-efficient Jokic

PRAGUE (Czech Republic) - Israel put up a fight, came within two points in the fourth quarter, but a quick Serbian 14-0 run put the game out of their reach. Serbia protected their perfect record, now 4-0 in Group D after this 89-78 win on Tuesday.

Israel dropped to 2-2 and face a do-or-die game against the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Guy Goodes' men are still a win ahead the hosts in the standings, but must be aware that every point matters in case of a potential three-way tie with Finland at 2-3.

Turning point:
Serbia were bothered by Israel's matchup zone, but still able to stay in front for most of the game. Their biggest lead was by18 points, however Deni Avdija decided to make things interesting.

With his scoring, passing and elite defense that saw him guard everybody from Vasilije Micic to Nikola Jokic, Israel went on an inspired run to reduce the gap to 65-63 in the fourth quarter.

That only made the Serbian machine switch to a higher speed. A swift 14-0 run wasn't powered by Jokic nor Micic. Ognjen Jaramaz exploded and collected 10 points, guiding Serbia back towards double digit lead, and ultimately to their fourth win in four tries.

TCL Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic had 29 points on 11-of-13 shooting, with 11 rebounds and 5 assists. His defense was also on the highest possible level, 4 steals and 2 blocks got him an efficiency rating of 46, a game-high by some distance and a new tournament high. 

Stats don't lie:
We can talk about the Serbian offense for hours, but this was an elite defensive game. Serbia had 10 steals, forced 17 turnovers, went +11 in fast break points, more than enough to win this.

Bottom line: Serbia once again had Vasilije Micic in a good mood, 19 points, and Nikola Kalinic was also in double figures with 10. Once again, they weren't playing at full strength as Nikola Milutinov is yet to play in Prague, Dejan Davidovac sat out the entire game, while Vanja Marinkovic did not suit up again, still recovering from his stomach issues.

Israel were close to getting a 3-1 record, but instead must stay focused on the final gameday in Prague. If Finland beat the Netherlands, then it's all clear - Israel and Czech Republic play for the last Round of 16 spot. If Finland lose, then a three-way tie at 2-3 is possible, and every point will matter.

They said:

"We knew we will have a tough game today against Israel who play unorthodox basketball, with defense with switching with everything. Anyway, we scored 89 points. It wasn't with high percentage, not with very good offense, but we had 89 points. Every game is a new experience, every game is important for us to win the game and learn from this experience. Our goals in this tournament, everybody knows it, to reach these goals, to win this group in Prague, and to play good basketball in Berlin, to do that only with Nikola Jokic is not possible. Every team on this level that wants to win something need players like Micic, Jokic, Kalinic, Guduric or Kuridza. The team is above everyone. Jokic knows what's his job, he likes to try to make all the other players better, because he knows we can win with team defense and team offense." - Serbia coach Svetislav Pesic

"All credit to Israel, to their players, their coaching staff. They prepared very well for this game, according to their abilities and potential, and for us it was a great game to adjust to some strange kind of defense, but also to stay calm until the end of the game. I really believe this was a great experience for us, and at the end of the day it's most important for us that we won the game." - Vasilije Micic, Serbia

"I'm very proud of my team. My teammates, coaches, we came to play against a very, very strong team. In the end, we were short. We are coming for the big game (the day after tomorrow), against the Czech Republic. I'm sure we will continue what we tried to do today and get the win." - Rafael Menco, Israel

"Our players came and showed up for the game against Serbia. With all the talent that they have, we saw before what they did to Finland and the other teams, but I told the players before the game that if we want to close the game to 15-20 points, it's going to have to be with energy throughout 40 minutes, to be aggressive, play together and never give up. We came very close, a couple of big shots for them from three points opened the gap up. Now in two days, it's gonna be like a Final, like we're playing for the Cup." - Israel coach Guy Goodes