Matched up against the World Champions and Eurobasket favorites Spain in their first match, Serbia knew they had take advantage of their position.
Serbia did just that; flying out of the gate behind Serbian captain and NBA player Nenad Krstić.
Serbia would hang on to upset Spain 66-57 as the young team outplayed and outsmarted the more experienced Spanish team.
Krstic, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, scored 7 points as Serbia took a 15-8 lead, before Spain charged back to close the gap to 15-12 behind Pau Gasol’s six points to end the first quarter.
Serbia would clamp down defensively the next quarter, limiting the Spanish and keeping Pau Gasol scoreless as they went on a 21-8 run before heading into halftime with a 38-23 lead.
Spain missed their first eleven three-point attempts before Juan Carlos Navarro finally connected with just five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
With the three, Spain would attempt to chip away at Serbia’s lead, cutting it down to just 9 points, 46-37.
Pau Gasol went to the line with a chance to again bring the lead down to ten, but he would miss his two free throws, and would miss a total of four consecutive free-throws in about a one minute span.
On the other side, Gasol’s NBA counterpart Krstic would score four points on a short jumpshot and a layup, and Milan Macvan would bookend Krstic’s baskets with two three pointers to push the Serbians to 19 points, their largest advantage of the game.
Serbia would close the third quarter with a 56-37 lead on Spain.
In the fourth, Spain still had some fight in them; a Felipe Reye’s putback capped a five-minute 13-3 Spanish run that closed the gap again to just nine points 59-50.
Again there was Krstic; answering with a long baseline jumper and a free throw, to push the lead back up to 12.
With the score at 62-52, Spain had two straight possessions where Pau Gasol went to the line for two foul shots. With time running out, Gasol could bring the game within seven points if he were to make all three of his free throws.
Gasol would make just one.
Spain’s downfall could be summaried by Pau Gasol’s free throw shooting (1-7). Gasol would miss his first seven free-throw attempts before making his eighth and final attempt (which was on a lane violation). By then the air was already out of a Spanish comeback.
Spain’s three-point shooting was horrendous, in which they shot just 2-19.
Krstic led the way for team Serbia with 17 points, outscoring the Gasol brothers combined, and pulled down 6 rebounds.
Serbia’s Novica Veličković added 12 points, a team high 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. Milenko Tepic contributed 10 points, all but one was scored in the first half.
Navarro led the Spanish side with 14 points, Felipe Reyes added 12 points and Sergio Lull had 9 points off the bench.
Pau Gasol had just 9 points and 7 rebounds and Ricky Rubio would end up with just 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists in nearly 27 minutes of play.