The much anticipated game between Serbia & Montenegro and Spain failed to live up to the expectations - because of the visitors' near perfect game in an 89-70 rout at Novi Sad.
Behind Juan Carlos Navarro's 27 points, Spain took the lead from the start and never rescinded it, leaving little choice to the Serb & Montenegrin fans but to boo their own heroes and cheer when they missed shots in the closing minutes of the blowout.
"The fans' reaction was understandable because we lost at home," said Serbia Montenegro's coach Zeljko Obradovic. "Some people will try and make excuses by saying that we lost because of the pressure of playing in front of our own fans..
"But Spain beat us and that is all there is to say. They won by 19 points, the biggest lead of the game and there is no excuse to be made for our performance.
|Navarro was unstoppable against Serbia & Montenegro|
"I am disappointed that the fans booed us because when we are down, when we are losing, that is when we need them the most. We appreciate their support when we are winning, but it is more important to know that they are on our side when we are having trouble in a game. And tonight they did not do that."
Serbia & Montenegro did not play particularly badly - just not nearly as well as their opponent on the night.
Navarro could not miss and gave his side the advantage early with a personal barrage from behind the three-point arc. He finished the night shooting 9 of 13 from the field including 5 of 8 from three-point territory.
"I just shot the ball when I felt I had a good shot and it kept going in. I tried not to force anything and be sure not to play out of our game plan," Navarro said after the game.
But it wasn't just Navarro that Serbia & Montenegro couldn't stop. NBA-bound Jose Calderon finished with 17 points, including several key baskets in the second half to halt runs by the host nation.
It seems the Spanish team can do without NBA star Pau Gasol.
"I don't want to talk about Gasol," Spanish coach Mario Pesquera said. "We'd be happy to have him on the team of course, but we don't. So I just look at the players we have and if they can play the way they did tonight in every game, then I'm more than happy to have just these guys."
Serbia & Montenegro trailed by eight points after the first quarter (21-13) and even though they improved in they were behind by 13 by half-time.
None of the team's NBA elite seemed to be able to get anything going on the night. Marco Jaric of the Minnesota Timberwolves was held scoreless and Zeljko Rebraca could not give his side a much-needed presence in the paint.
Instead it was former NBA player Igor Rakocevic who carried Serbia & Montenegro for most of the night, going into the paint time and time again to create an easy basket for his team-mates or draw a foul. He finished with 20 points.
Obradovic could not stop Spain's run-and-gun style of play and instead went deep into his roster to find some offensive firepower to match the Catalan nation's outpour.
Midway through the second half, Obradovic brought on Seattle Supersonic forward Vladimir Radmanovic and Detroit Pistons center Darko Milicic.
Radmanovic brought some offense immediately with a lay-up and a three-pointer on back to back possessions to reduce Spain's lead to 10 points, 60-50. But he brought little more.
Milicic provided some inside toughness defensively but because of the deficit had little chance of getting touches offensively.
Spain was able to maintain its double digit lead intact for much of the second half with Navarro continuing his impressive display, Calderon joining in on the act and Inaki de Miguel scoring from inside and out.
Through the first three quarters, Spain shot 16 of 27 from two-point range, 7 of 16 from beyond the arc and had made 17 of their 24 free throw attempts.
The boos got louder and louder as the game came to an end and the fans eventually started cheering the Spanish duo of Navarro and Calderon who were making shots from everywhere, with hands in their faces and while being fouled.
Jaric was cheered when he attempted - and again missed - his last shot of the game, leaving Obradovic to give a stern warning to the fans.
"Let the fans come tomorrow, we'll see what they do then. We know we have fans who support us and some who don't. I'm telling the ones who are against us to show themselves tomorrow."