By Jeff Taylor
Turning point: After Felipe Reyes and Juan Carlos Navarro combined for five quick points to get Spain to within five, 24-19, early in the second quarter, Serbia then accounted for 14 of the final 18 points of the first half. That proved to be enough as the closest Spain got the rest of the way was seven, on Ricky Rubio's free-throws with just over 40 seconds left to play.
Hero: Actually heroes...starters Novica Velickovic and Milenko Tepic were the main instigators as Serbia took a 38-23 lead at the break and substitute Milan Macvan hit some two clutch shots in the third quarter to deal a real blow to Spains moral, pretty much making the fourth quarter a mere formality.
Stats: One. Thats the number of free-throws Pau Gasol made out of his seven attempts. Well actually it was eight attempts as there was a lane violation on one of them so he got to take one of them again and missed it.
Serbia sent world champions Spain crashing to a 66-57 defeat on the opening night of the EuroBasket.
Playing at a frenetic pace from start to finish on both ends of the floor, Dusan Ivkovic's team outhustled the Spanish and sprung the biggest surprise in Poland so far.
Using a relentless defense which saw the winners come up with 12 steals and four blocked shots, Serbia not only moved closer to their pre-tournament aim of qualifying for next year's FIBA World Championship but also served
notice they will contend for honors at the EuroBasket.
|Pau Gasol played 25 minutes for Spain, with nine points and seven rebounds.|
Serbia harassed the Spanish shooters non-stop for 40 minutes, which led to a woeful two of 19 (11%) shooting from long range and 18 of 42 (43%) inside the arc.
"The first game of any tournament is always difficult to play but tonight I feel my team absolutely deserved the victory," Ivkovic said.
"Spain is one of the - if not the - best team in these championships so we did a very good job to hold them to 23 points in the first half and only 37 through three quarters.
"Our pressure defense and perimeter defense were excellent."
Spain, who lost their final warm-up game in Vilnius to Lithuania, were so out of sync that they hit just 15 of their 28 of free-throws for an abysmal (54%).
The biggest offender in that department was Pau Gasol, the recently crowned NBA champion of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Gasol missed his first seven free-throws before making one right before the end.
He ended up with nine points and seven rebounds.
Spain boss Sergio Scariolo, who made his EuroBasket bow, said: "Serbia played a very good game especially on the defensive end. Our shooting percentages were very low and part of that was because of their defense but also we missed many, many open shots."
When asked about his own team's defense, he replied: "It's hard for me to talk about defense when our team only scored 57 points."
Blues captain Nenad Krstic led the team with 17 points and six rebounds.
Serbia jumped out to a 15-8 lead in the first quarter, only for Gasol to come off the bench and spark Spain with six points and help them close the gap to 15-12 by the end of the first quarter.