Serbia, Croatia earn Olympic basketball berths; Canada, France to play for final spot
Serbia and Croatia are Brazil bound.
France or Canada will get the only Olympic basketball spot left.
Serbia emphatically claimed its first Olympic appearance as an independent country Saturday, crushing Puerto Rico 108-77 in the championship game of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament it hosted in Belgrade. Bogdan Bogdanovic had 26 points and eight assists, while tournament MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets added 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Part of an international basketball power in the former Yugoslavia, Serbia made the Olympics for the first time since it became an independent nation in 2006. It appeared two years earlier as Serbia and Montenegro.
Serbia beat Puerto Rico by just six points earlier this week in group play but left no doubt this one wouldn’t be close. The Serbians raced to a 24-3 lead and were ahead 37-11 after one quarter, extended it to 60-27 at halftime, and shot 58.7 percent for the game.
Croatia had a much tougher time, outlasting Italy 84-78 in overtime in Turin, Italy. Bojan Bogdanovic of the Brooklyn Nets scored 26 points, former Philadelphia 76ers lottery pick Dario Saric added 18 points and 13 rebounds, and the Croatians qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 2008.
The other final is Sunday in Manila, Philippines, where Canada gets a second shot to claim the Olympic berth that slipped away last year when it blew a late lead and was stunned by Venezuela in the semifinals of the FIBA Americas tournament.
Cory Joseph of the Toronto Raptors scored 23 points and Tristan Thompson of the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers added 13 points and 10 rebounds Saturday in a 78-72 victory over New Zealand.
France beat Turkey 75-63 in the other semifinal, getting 17 points from Thomas Heurtel.
After Sunday’s final, there will be a draw to place the three champions in the Rio field. Two of them will end up in the same group as the two-time defending champion U.S.
Along with the Americans, the other teams who have already qualified for the 12-team field are Spain, Lithuania, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, China, Australia and Nigeria.
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