Serbia switched gears in the fourth frame of their Wednesday quarter-final clash with the Czech Republic to clinch an 89-75 victory and a berth in the EuroBasket 2015 semi-finals in Lille.
Turning Point: Tomas Satoransky inspired a strong Czech finish to the third quarter and Serbia saw the double-digit lead they had worked so hard to build reduced to 67-63. Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic turned to his bench, told Miroslav Raduljica to return to the court and the big man immediately went to work down low, sparking an 8-1 Serbian burst that Milos Teodosic capped off by converting a three-point play 7:02 from the end of the final stanza that made it 75-64.
Stats Don't Lie: Serbia showcased their depth as Raduljica and Zoran Erceg came off the bench and hurt the Czechs enormously, the former in the paint and the latter by stretching the floor and shooting from range. The frontcourt duo combined for 36 of Serbia's 50 points off the bench, while the Czech Republic got a mere 14 points from their entire second unit - a total of six players coming off the bench.
Game Hero: It is a testament to the genius of Milos Teodosic that despite the fact Pavel Pumprla and the entire Czech defence were on a mission to make his life difficult and forced him to endure a poor shooting night, they did not manage to hamper the creativity of the Serbian star who dished out 14 assists.
Bottom Line: Serbia return to the semi-finals of the EuroBasket for the first time since 2009, when they had won the silver medal in Poland. It is however their second consecutive trip to the semi-finals in as many major tournaments under the tenure of coach Djordjevic, which commenced prior to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Serbia have in the process secured a berth at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, even if eventually they do not progress to the final. The Czech Republic will play the losing side in the clash between Lithuania and Italy and can still qualify for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
They Said: "Teodosic is an amazing player, he does things in practice that I have never seen in my life. His passing ability is amazing...he has put a big stamp on the last decade with the way he plays, his vision of the game is unbelievable." - Serbia head coach Sasha Djordjevic
|Miroslav Raduljica going up againstJan Vesely is a tantalising thought for any basketball fan|
The third quarter-final sees the in-form team Serbia come up against a Czech team fresh off stunning Croatia in the Round of 16.
Record: Serbia WWWWWW v Czech Republic WWLWLW
The 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup runners-up Serbia motored past Finland in the Round of 16 to remain undefeated, having won their last four games by an average of 20 points. The Czechs rebounded from their tough group stage loss to Lithuania by surprising Croatia to reach the quarter-finals for the first time as an independent nation.
Key Match-Up: Miroslav Raduljica v Jan Vesely
Raduljica is averaging 18.5 points in the last four games for Serbia - in just 17 minutes per game - while hitting 80% of his shots. Vesely must slow down the Raduljica Express while making him work harder on defence as well.
|"Everybody knows the chances, but we believe and we will try to do our best" - Czech head coach Ronen Ginzburg|
Key Stat: Serbia are second in scoring at 87.8 points with the top field goal percentage (51.9%) and the most assists in the tournament - 25.2 per game. The Czechs are ranked third in points allowed at 66.8 per game.
"Czech Republic showed great character and had a great game against Croatia. We know what we have to do. We know our strengths and weaknesses. We have our goal and our mission and we will fight to get there" - Serbia head coach Aleksandar Djordjevic.
"Everybody knows the chances, but we believe and we will try to do our best. For us to come to the Round of 16 is the first accomplishment, the quarters is another bonus" - Czech head coach Ronen Ginzburg.
Serbia head coach Djordjevic takes advantage of his depth with just two players playing more than 23 minutes a game while four Czechs top the 23 minute mark each game. The Serbians and Czechs have never played an international game at senior level.