RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Serbia had a late last look against the US and missed.
The Serbs are getting another shot, this time for gold.
Milos Teodosic scored 22 points as Serbia, which pushed the star-studded American squad to the final seconds before losing earlier in the Rio Games, moved into the Olympic final with a shockingly easy 87-61 semifinal win over Australia on Friday.
Stefan Markovic scored 14, Nikola Jokic had 11 rebounds and the Serbs, a squad with a mixture of moxie and muscle, earned another crack at the US on Sunday. The two-time champions buckled down on defense and held off Spain 82-76 in the other semi to advance.
Serbia’s win guaranteed its first Olympic medal in men’s basketball since gaining independence in 2006. An upset would give it the most precious one.
“I’m not even thinking about the final because we need some time to forget this game and prepare our mind and body and everything for the game against the States,’’ said Teodosic, the Serbs captain who shot 9 of 14 and added five assists. “They are for sure the best team in the tournament, one great team with the big names. We’re going to go on the court and try to play our game and we’re going to see if it’s going to be enough.’’
The Serbs had more than enough to handle the talented and tough Aussies, who scored just five points in the first quarter, 14 in the first half and failed to secure their first Olympic medal after three fourth-place finishes.
The Aussies, too, were hoping for another crack at the US after a close loss in preliminary play. But they’ll now have to beat Spain for their first Top 3 finish.
With five NBA players, Australia brought its most talented team ever to Brazil. A horrendous start negated everything the Boomers had going for them.
“We’re going to try to regroup,’’ said Andrew Bogut, who had just four points and one rebound in more than 22 minutes. “We realized the tournament’s not over for us. It’s disappointing to have that kind of game, but that’s tournament basketball. You have one bad game out of seven and you’re kind of out.’’