Serbia held on despite a late surge by Spain in the final minutes to celebrate an 80-70 victory in a thrilling game of runs on the opening day of EuroBasket Group B action.
Turning Point: Serbia grabbed a 12-point lead late in the third frame but midway through the fourth Pau Gasol poured in eight points in quick succession for Spain to reduce to 71-70 with 1:39 remaining to play. Nemanja Bjelica replied with a big triple from eight metres out, Spain turned the ball over and, with 48 seconds left on the clock, Bogdan Bodganovic nailed a dagger-three to give Serbia a 77-70 cushion.
Stats Don't Lie: The only Spanish player to connect from three-point range was Pau Ribas and the two-time EuroBasket champions shot a poor 3-of-19 from beyond the arc. Serbia chased loose balls after every missed shot, out-rebounded Spain 44-to-32 and allowed their opponents to score only eight second-chance points.
Game Hero: Nemanja Nedovic was inspirational late in the second quarter as he single-handedly instigated an 8-0 run that enabled Serbia to draw level, but Bjelica left room for no one else under the limelight on Saturday. The charismatic forward, who came up with two big threes in the clutch, finished with a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds, also adding four assists.
Bottom Line: Serbia came to life in the third quarter and showed glimpses of the hard-nosed defence that led them to the final of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Spain need to bounce back on Sunday against Turkey and can perhaps take heart from the fact they kicked off two EuroBasket tournaments under coach Scariolo with a loss and then went on to win gold on both occasions.
They Said: "I was not surprised of the shots Bjelica made in the clutch, he is the professor of big shots" - Serbia center Miroslav Raduljica on his team-mate's play in crunch time.