August 08, 2016
Dario Saric will lead the highlight packages over the next day, and deservedly so. This wasn’t summer league, either. Pau Gasol was open underneath the basket with a chance to tie Croatia’s Olympic preliminary against Spain, and Saric came out of nowhere to block the 7-footer’s shot:
That was a very high-IQ play, as Saric used excellent anticipation in a special situation at the end of the game. In an upset win that will mean quite a bit to a proud basketball nation, the future Sixer made the biggest play and then had the best quote:
Dario Saric speaks a little English but hasn't grasped all of the phrases. Said clinching block on Pau Gasol "was like cherry on the cake."— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) August 8, 2016
Despite the block that sent Zagreb into a frenzy, Saric wasn’t at his best in this one. He shot 1 of 7 from the field (and 3 of 6 from the line) and lost Nikola Mirotic multiple times defensively. It happens.
Despite not playing up to his capabilities, Saric was on the floor for almost 34 minutes (out of 40) because he’s one of Croatia’s best two players. And besides the block, he contributed seven rebounds and five assists, some of which were pretty sweet:
In Michael Lee’s article for The Vertical, former NBAer (and current Croatian point guard) Roko Ukic talked about how Saric can be effective without his shot falling:
“I’m optimistic about his future. Of course, he will need to develop as a player and get some stuff for the next level, be ready and grow up, but he’s a 22-year-old kid. He got a great mentality. Even the time things don’t go great for him shooting-wise or offensively, he can bring so much different stuff to the table. So he can help the team in various ways. He’s not like one-way player.”
On the other side of the ledger, Sergio Rodriguez finished with 10 points and 7 assists (only on 3-11 FG and with four turnovers, though). "The bearded one" made some excellent passes out of the pick-and-roll in the first half, a strength of his:
We won’t update the progress of Saric and Rodriguez after every game, but from the looks of the first tilt, both players are going to leave their imprint on the Olympic tourney.
On the docket today, the United States is currently laying a cool 51.5 points against Venezuela.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann