By Simon Wilkinson, PA Sport
Serbia & Montenegro started playing the kind of basketball their fans expected of them – and it paid dividends in the form of a 93-77 win over Israel.
Igor Rakocevic started alongside Marko Jaric in the backcourt in place of Dejan Bodiroga to quicken the backcourt and it seemed to work right away for all players concerned.
Jaric bounced back from a scoreless performance on Friday night against Spain to lead the way with 18 points
The host nation looked more organised and less static against Israel, even though the visitors weren’t out of the game until a 20-0 run in the fourth quarter, capped by a Darko Milicic jumper, put them away for good.
It prompted a standing ovation from the Novi Sad crowd which lasted until the end of the game.
“I think tonight we were able to play as well as our fans can expect us to and it was great to see that they supported us both when we were having trouble and when we found ourselves in a good rhythm. That is the way it should always be,” said Serbia & Montenegro head coach Zeljko Obradovic after the game.
|Igor Rakocevic |
Jaric was relieved that he and his team-mates were able to show what they were really capable of.
“We were much more focused than in our first game against Spain and when we play like that, we’re definitely a much better team and one that can win this tournament,” he said after the game.
Israel recovered from an early double digit deficit to take their first lead of the game at 34-32 midway through the second quarter, but a scoring spurt by Zeljko Rebraca and Vladimir Radmanovic gave Serbia & Montenegro a nine-point advantage at halftime.
The hosts looked more patient and willing to distribute the ball to their inside instead of rushing shots from the perimeter.
In the second half, Israel fought back to make a game of it, tying the game several times thanks to strong play from backcourt players Meir Tapiro and substitute Afik Nissim.
Serbia & Montenegro looked like they had reverted to their bad ways of the previous night against Spain when they could not find or create open shots and had to force several shots to avoid a shot clock violation.
But the unlikely pairing of Nenad Krstic and Darko Milicic gave them a solid inside presence at both ends of the floor.
Krstic provided some much needed offense late in the third quarter while Milicic blocked shots and was an imposing presence defensively. He was also able to contribute offensively scrapping for rebounds and getting putback baskets.
Things were in the hosts’ favour in the final period, as they held Israel scoreless for close to seven minutes.
After the visitors tied the game at 67 all early in the quarter, Serbia & Montenegro went on a 20-0 run thanks to Krstic and Milicic up front and the now efficient backcourt of Jaric and Rakocevic.
Fittingly, it was the home kid, Milicic who capped the impressive run with a jumper from the left wing that made it 87-67.
Rakocevic finished with 15 points and six assists while Krstic had a double double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Milicic was efficient in limited minutes, scoring 11 points, grabbing seven rebounds and three blocked shots, as all the players who took to the court for the hosts got on the scoring sheet.
Captain Tal Burstein led the way for Israel with 20 points and Yaniv Green added 11 points and 10 rebounds while Tapiro chipped in with 10.