Playing the point, Dzanan Musa scored 15 points and handed out nine assists Thursday night in Espoo, Finland, but the home team beat Bosnia, 85-81, in a FIBA World Cup Qualifier marked by a 21-point comeback that fell just short.
It was Musa’s first game since June when he won the Croatian league championship with Cedevita, then flew to the U.S. for Draft workouts. He did not play in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Down 24 with eight minutes left, Bosnia went on a frantic scoring run getting the lead down to three following a Musa free throw with 1:13 left. But Finland took advantage of a personal foul and a turnover by Bosnia’s other NBA player, Jusuf Nurkic, and Musa made an errant pass with 18 seconds left. The game ended, Finland 85, Bosnia 81.
The loss, combined with Bulgaria’s upset of France, puts Bosnia’s chance of making the FIBA World Cup in China at near zero. Bosnia is fifth and last in Group K and only the top three teams will qualify for next summer’s event.
Musa, who believes he can play the point at the NBA level, was pressed into service when Bosnia’s starting point guard failed to answer the call to join the club. The 19-year-old, taken at No. 29 in the Draft, showed solid passing skills and some nice handles for someone who has spent most of his (short) career on the wing.
Although he had four turnovers in a game high 34 minutes, a couple of the errant passes were more the fault of those who he targeted. Moreover, when Musa left the game — for less than six minutes total — Bosnia’s composure suffered. During the seven-minute comeback, Musa had four assists and five points.
Bosnia looked ragged, as if they had been thrown together quickly ... and indeed both Musa and Nurkic didn’t join the team last weekend. Moreover, Finland was led by two veteran guards, Petteri Koponen, whose rights are held by Mavericks, and Sasu Salin. Koponen finished with 15 points and seven assists while Salin had 25, including six three’s.
The two teams’ offenses were diametrically opposed. Bosnia ran a traditional iso game, trying to take advantage of Nurkic down below, while the Finns playing wide open. Bosnia failed to move the ball well, giving up 34 points on turnovers. While Bosnia had a 10-point advantage in points in the paint, they were outgunned beyond the arc. Bosnia took only 13 three’s the whole game to Finland’s 33 ... and the Finns, helped by Salin, hit nearly 40 percent of their attempts.
Post-game, Bosnian captain Elmedin Kikanovic called the performance “soft” but also appeared that team chemistry was not what it should be.
Bosnia plays the Czech Republic, with Tomas Satoransky of the Wizards and former NBA big Jan Vesely, on Sunday.
Meanwhile, in Botevgrad, Bulgaria, Nets stash Aleksandar Vezenkov was part of the day’s big upset. Bulgaria beat France, a World Cup medal contender, 74-68. While Nicolas Batum did a good job controlling the 6’9” Vezenkov on offense, the 57th pick in the 2017 Draft had a game high eight rebounds. Vezenkov shot only 4-of-14, including 1-of-6 from deep, but played all but five minutes in the contest. Bulgaria next plays Russia.
- Game Report: Finland 85, Bosnia 81 - FIBA.com
- Full Game Video: Finland 85, Bosnia 81 - FIBA.com
- Highlights: Dzanan Musa (Video) - BH Basket
- Game Report: Bulgaria 74, France 68 - FIBA.com
- Full Game Video: Bulgaria 74, France 68 - FIBA.com