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Bojan Bogdanovic leads Croatia to upset win over Italy

Bojan Bogdanovic via Facebook

Croatia, led by Bojan Bogdanovic, is on a roll after beating Italy, 76-68, in a Eurobasket upset. The young team from the Balkans is now tied for the best record in tournament and the Nets 2011 draft pick is their star.

The FIBA game report describes the turning point and Bogdanovic's role in it.

An explosive Croatia came out of the locker rooms after the interval and scored 18 points in the first 4:51 of action in the third, as Bojan Bogdanovic and Krunoslav Simon drilled two three-pointers apiece, to turn a 36-31 deficit into a 49-43 lead.

Bogdanovic finished with 18 points. Although he had a tough time at the rim, he was 4-of-6 from deep. Twice he intervened to keep Croatia in contention.  With six minutes to go in the first half, Croatia was down 26-13, when the 6'8" swingman took over.

He dunked in the open floor, on Croatia's first fast-break in the game, to reduce the deficit to 26-17, and after Travis Diener hit a jumper from the top of the key for Italy, the Croatian winger drilled a three and sunk two free throws 3:58 from the half-time buzzer to bring his team within six points, 28-22. Then, after halftime, he led the Croatian onslaught.

During the run, Croatian fans (and Nets scouts) received quite a scare. Right after scoring on a post-up in the third , Bogdanovic stole a pass and had a wide-open layup. His right knee gave out as he was going up and he missed the layup. He was taken out of the game, but came back in a couple of minutes later.  He seemed to be moving okay and in the fourth, struck again.

After the third quarter barrage, Italy fought back late in the game, coming within five points at the 3:24 mark. Bogdanovic hit a three-pointer to increase the lead to eight and Italy never got closer than four.

Bogdanovic outplayed Marco Belinelli, who the Nets passed on in favor of Bogdanovic (before his buyout problems intervened.)  The newly minted Spur finished with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting. Bogdanovic also finished with two steals, three rebounds and two assists. He's now averaging 16.9 points, second highest among players who've advanced to the second round. Tony Parker is averaging 18.3 for France.

As he and Croatia continue to play well, he's gaining more attention from NBA GMs. The next big step in his journey to Brooklyn will take place after the European tournament. A free agent after this season, will he agree to an extension with his Turkish club, Fenerbahce and if he does, what will his buyouts look like?  He and Fener will play against Oklahoma City in Istanbul on October 5 as part of the NBA's Global Games. The game will be televised on NBA TV.