Croatia, with a victory over the Netherlands, and Italy, with an overtime win over Germany, finished Wednesday with 3-1 records, as Bojan Bogdanovic and Andrea Bargnani once again were key players in a big game. After their final games in group play Thursday, both teams will now advance to the single elimination "knockout round" in Lille, France. That round begins Saturday.
Bogdanovic, apparently recovered from his concussion, finished his game with 13 points, including a 10-point spurt at the end of the first half. He shot 4-of-14 overall, his worst shooting performance in the tournament, including 1-of-6 from three. The rest of his stat line was unimpressive, grabbing only one rebound and finishing without an assist. He also picked up a technical.
The game was tighter than expected, with a final six-point margin. Still, Croatia, which has had it share of injuries, was able to utlize its bench to advance.
Bogdanovic said after the game that the Croatians needed to improve their defense in the second half and did, but later tweeted there's more work to be done..
Althought we won, we have to try harder and play every game as it is the championship final! #EuroBasket #GoCroatia pic.twitter.com/OixAPeIWZw— Bojan Bogdanovic (@44Bojan) September 10, 2015
He also credited the team's fans at the hometown Arena Zagreb. "I think that this positive energy that we transferred to the crowd, they transferred to the court."
Meanwhile, Bargnani had his second straight solid game against an NBA big man. After helping Italy beat Spain with an 18-point game vs. Pau Gasol, the seven-footer finished with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 1-of-3 from deep working against Dirk Nowitzki.. Bargnani grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots while Nowitzki had 14 points and 10 boards.
Here are Bargnani's highlights, compiled by Fabrizio Taffuri. It includes his blocks on both Nowitzki and Denis Schroder.
Post-game, Bargnani expressed his relief at beating the Germans who were led by Schroder. The Hawks guard finished with 29 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.