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Serbia & Montenegro: Obradovic Rests Stars, Pays With Defeat

01 September 2005

Serbia & Montenegro coach Zeljko Obradovic tried to play down the importance of his team's Efes Cup 79-69 defeat to Italy on Wednesday.

Zeljko Rebraca, the most valuable player for the national team at FIBA World Championship 1998 in Athens, is playing for Obradovic at this summer's EuroBasket and he had 20 points in the warm-up game.

Marko Jaris also had 10 points and captain Dejan Bodiroga eight, but the coach elected to rest the trio in the fourth quarter and Italy, who faced a 16-point deficit at one stage in the game, stormed back behind Stefano Mancinelli to win.

"These are only preparation games," Obradovic insisted after the contest.

"I cannot make my players play for 40 minutes, otherwise I will not have them fully fit for the EuroBasket."

The defeat has taken some of the gloss of an otherwise outstanding week for Obradovic, whose players beat Slovenia, Croatia and European champions Lithuania in the ProMonte Cup in Podgorica.

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