Turning Point: A one or two shot game for much of the fourth, the Serbian defence forced three consecutive stops before Stefan Markovic collected a steal and an open layup to increase Serbia's lead to six with four minutes remaining. Nemanja Nedovic buried a corner three on the next possession and Serbia rode the margin out to a hard fought victory.
Game Hero: Nenad Krstic's 13-point first quarter carried Serbia through the second and third quarters when their offensive production dried up. He scored a number of critical fourth quarter baskets and stole a pass in the post in the final two minutes to ensure the win. He finished with a game-high 25 points alongside five rebounds.
Stats Don't Lie: The Serbians offset everything Latvia did by establishing their offence in the paint, outscoring Latvia 24-10 in the first half and 36-20 for the game.
|Dusan Ivkovic required big minutes from Nenad Krstic on Sunday evening to assure his team a safe passage past Latvia|
Serbia outlasted a second half push by Latvia to run out 80-71 winners for their third win of the tournament in Jesenice on Sunday.
Led by two Nenad Krstic "and-1" plays to start the game, the Serbians made six of their first seven field goals and opened up a 13-point lead at quarter time on the back of six made field goals from the veteran center.
"It was very important for us after the F.Y.R. of Macedonia game," said point guard Stefan Markovic referring to Friday's 14-point loss.
"We started very aggressive; our pressure was a high level," added Serbian coach Dusan Ivkovic.
"We led early, but after that our game was so up and down. We are a very naïve team."
Latvia managed five points from their opening two possessions of the second quarter and made a convincing run to cut the lead as low seven until an emphatic final minute Nikola Kalinic block on one end led to a Nemanja Krstic triple down the other, conserving Serbia's double-digit lead before the halftime.
Kristaps Janicenoks erupted for 14 points in the third, bringing Latvia all the way to within one in the final minute. Martins Meiers converted a layup with 2.7 seconds remaining, setting up a baseline inbounds pass from Kalinic the length of the court to Bogdan Bogdanovic who banked the quarter-ending triple on the siren to give Serbia a handy three-point led with a quarter to play.
Serbia carried the momentum through into the fourth as Markovic drilled a three, but another Janicenoks triple restored order and Latvia came as close as two with six minutes remaining until the Serbian defence pulled through, forcing enough bad shots and turnovers to break away on the scoreboard.
"We came back but immediately they used Krstic and we couldn't stop him today," said Janis Blums.
"He played an unbelievable game today, for us, our problem was Krstic."
Ivkovic wasn't overly pleased he had to play Krstic 34 minutes, but refused to entertain the idea he would rest the 30-year-old or any other of his players in tomorrow's game against Montenegro.
"I always play to win. This has always been my philosophy after all these years on the floor," he said.
Nemanja Nedovic contributed nine points, four assists and three steals, but shot just 3-for-11 while Nemanja Bjelica added 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Janicenoks finished with 18 and Dairis Bertans chipped 14 for Latvia.