Serbia beats Spain 80-70 in top match of opening day

AP Photo

BERLIN — Nemanja Bjelica scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Serbia past Spain 80-70 in the featured match of the opening day of the European Basketball Championship on Saturday.

Also, Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Schroeder scored 15 points each to lead host Germany to a surprisingly close 71-65 victory over Iceland.

Bjelica was supported by Nemanja Nedovic, who didn’t miss a shot in scoring 14 points and pacing a key run that got Serbia back into the game.

“It may have been the best game of his career,” Serbia coach Aleksandar Djordjevic said of Bjelica.

Serbia, the silver medalist at last year’s World Cup, scored the first five points and kept Spain scoreless until Rudy Fernandez’s three-point play with 4:58 left in the first quarter. But Spain quickly put together a 12-0 run and had a 10-point lead after the first quarter.

Nedovic then came off the bench to score 10 straight points, including two consecutive 3-pointers, as Serbia closed the gap to two at the end of the first half.

Nedovic and Zoran Erceg scored 3-pointers, and Bjelica made a jumper as Serbia opened a 60-49 lead in the third.

In the last quarter, Pau Gasol singlehandedly brought Spain within one with less than two minutes left. But Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic nailed 3-pointers to protect Serbia’s win.

After a quiet game in the first half apart from four blocks, Gasol scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Nikola Mirotic added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“Nedovic turned the game around,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. “We came back but then those two 3-pointers (by Bjelica and Bogdanovic) finished us off.”

Spain was a two-time champion before France won the title two years ago.

Iceland outscored Germany 22-12 in the final quarter as Jon Steffansson topped all scorers with 23 points for the team considered an outsider in the tough Group B.

Nowitzki needed time to get into the game but also contributed seven rebounds. Schroeder had six rebounds and four assists.

Poland beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 68-64 in Group A in Montpellier, France; the Netherlands stunned Georgia 73-72 in Group C in Zagreb, Croatia; and the Czech Republic routed Estonia 80-57 in Group D in Riga, Latvia.

Robin Smeulders sank a jumper with 18 seconds remaining for the Dutch to win their first Eurobasket match since 1989. Charlon Kloof led all scorers with 22 points. Georgia got 16 points from center Zaza Pachulia, and Tomike Shengelia also added 16.

Jan Vesely led the Czech Republic with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Center Marcin Gortat had 10 points and seven rebounds for Poland, while Adam Waczinski had 15 points. Andrija Stepanovic led Bosnia with 20.

Omri Casspi scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds as Israel rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Russia 76-73 in Group A.

Greece beat Macedonia 85-65 in Group C, while Latvia dismissed Belgium 78-67 in Group D.