Despite defeat, Bojan Bogdanovic led all scorers with 17 points. USA’s Eric Gordon led the States with 16 points, with Croatia’s Marko Popovic equally that tally.
The first period was tightly-contested, as Croatia and USA traded buckets, but with the 7-0 run that the States started the game off with, Croatia were playing catch-up, until they took the lead, with two minutes remaining in the first with a bucket from Marko Banic.
The crowd of 12,500 was in favour of Croatia, including the Slovenians. Most U.S possessions were being booed – and the Croatian support was calling for travel violations as well. The controversy of the Beijing Olympics still fresh in the mind, despite the fact that none of these players were involved in their gold medal outing.
The States though enjoyed the second quarter, where they hit 10 answered points, including a triple from Derrick Rose. Despite a bucket from Croatia’s Ante Tomic.
The U.S were playing the up-tempo basketball that most fans enjoy the most. Russell Westbrook slamming home from a pass off Billups. The U.S were in total control, as five straight Eric Gordon points being another highlight, as his team enjoyed a 48-26 lead at half-time. As Croatia could only manage six second quarter points.
“We had to get adjusted to the game.” Billups commented after the game.
“Once we did that – we were able to take away some plays and get up-and-down the court”
Croatia could do nothing to stop the U. S onslaught, as a Billups led 14-1 run gave America a bigger cushion at 68-34 – forcing a timeout from coach, Josip Vrankovic.
By then though, coach, Mike Krzyzewski was benching his NBA based players on a regular basis. Rudy Gay and Bojan Bogdanovic traded buckets to end the third, where the U.S were in control at 78-48.
Marko Popovic was making a name for himself on the world stage, with seven points in the first three fourth quarter minutes to bring a little respectability to the scoreline, but, buckets from Kevin Love and Gordon made sure that the favourites opened with a win.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net – in Istanbul