Battling France Edge Serbia In OT



Turning Point: Dusko Savanovic of Serbia had a chance to win the game at the end of overtime while open and just a few feet away from the basket as the final seconds ticked away, but his shot was short and France held on for a 97-96 win.

Game Hero: Marko Keselj was spectacular for Serbia, scoring 25 points, including a shot from beyond the arc with 24.1 seconds left that gave his team a 96-95 lead. But France's Tony Parker's two free-throws with 19 seconds to play gave him 24 points and also proved to be the game-winning points.

Stats Don't Lie: France were aggressive, attacked the basket and scored 58 of their 97 points in the lane to just 28 for Serbia.

France scraped a 97-96 overtime triumph against Serbia to clinch first place in EuroBasket Group B on Monday night in Siauliai.

In a battle of unbeatens, a pair of Tony Parker free-throws with 19 seconds remaining were the last points of the game, although it could have been very different as Serbia's sensational forward Dusko Savanovic was just a few feet away from the basket and missed an open shot at the end.

Victory means that France will start Round 2 with a couple of victories and Serbia must go into the next phase with a 1-1 mark.

"We did what we wanted to do, but unfortunately we missed the shot," Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic said.

France coach Vincent Collet, whose team got 24 points from Parker and overcame the blistering, long-range shooting display of Serbia who were 11 of 23 (48%), spoke about the importance of the win.

"It was very important to go to Vilnius with two wins because playing against Turkey, Lithuania and Spain, it's going to be tough like tonight," Collet said.

"What was good is that we forced Serbia to turn the ball over."

Serbia had 18 turnovers.

"Sometimes they got some open shots, because they are very good for decision-making to find the open player, but from this we also forced them to make some mistakes and from these mistakes, we were able to score," Collet said.

Collet was also pleased with his players' effort on the boards.

France out-rebounded Serbia, 37-29, with Joakim Noah (14pts) a rebound shy of a double-double.

"What we did very well was rebound," Collet said.

"Up to now, the Serbia team was the best team with the rebounds and I think we did better."

France had a chance to take control at the end of regulation.

After Mickael Gelabale hit two free-throws with 57 seconds left for an 80-78 lead, Parker stole the ball from Serbia's Aleksandar Rasic to trigger a fastbreak.

Serbia's Milos Teodosic reached in and was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Nicolas Batum.

It was Teodosic's fifth foul and he exited the game but Batum, who had to wear a head dressing over an open cut beside above his right eye after a nasty fall, missed both free-throws.

Then France's Boris Diaw missed a jump hook and Serbia rebounded, thus avoiding any damage that trip down the floor.

Serbia then went to their captain and center, Nenad Krstic, and he was fouled while going hard to the basket.

Krstic sank both free-throws to knot game at 80-80.

After a timeout and with 10 seconds left, France inbounded the ball to Parker and after letting the clock run down, he put up a three-pointer from above the key.

The ball hit the rim and stayed out and the game went to overtime.

Marko Keselj, who was spectacular for Serbia with a game-high 25 points, hit the last of his seven three-pointers with 24.1 seconds left to give his team a 96-95 lead.

But Parker's two free-throws with 19 seconds to play put the French back in front, and also accounted for the 27th lead change of the game.

It proved to be the game-winning points as Savanovic's shot stayed out.

Savanovic's former Valencia teammate, Florent Pietrus, tried to console the Serbian but he left the court in tears after a very emotionally-charged game.

Neither side was short of heroes in this spectacular game, with Nicolas Batum scoring 18 points on some of the most explosive moves ever seen at a EuroBasket.

In another game, Batum might have come out because he needed stitches.

"I said, 'No stitches during the game,' Batum said.

"I don't want to come out this game."

Boris Diaw scoring 15 points and both Kevin Seraphin and Mickael Gelabale had 11.

"We have to be focused all the time," Gelabale said.

"Everyone knows we have to play like we did today."


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