We’re a few weeks away from Media Day, the start of Minnesota Timberwolves training camp, and the next installment of this franchise. But we still need some basketball now. Thankfully, we’ve got the FIBA qualifying tournaments for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro happening. We’ve been looking at the FIBA Americas tournament to see how Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett (but mostly Wiggins) look, but that competition is really weak outside of Argentina’s team.
In EuroBasket 2015, we get to watch much better competition and a deep talent pool that happens to feature one of the newest T’Wolves, Nemanja Bjelica. The 2015 Euroleague MVP is the star of his Serbian National Team. While Milos Teodosic may be more of a legend in European play and Bogdan Bogdanovic is a fairly big deal, Bjelica is the best player on the team. They kicked off their EuroBasket Group B pool play with a showdown against Spain, and Bjelica put on a show.
No Ricky Rubio, no Marc Gasol, and Nikola Mirotic took Serge Ibaka’s roster spot as the lone foreign-born player allowed on Team Spain, but they are still loaded with talent. They needed to maximize it against Serbia and especially Bjelica. They tried to defend him with multiple defenders, but Bjelica’s play-making ability was too much. He abused Mirotic at times, made some great passes, and just kept raining outside shots on Spain.
The dirtiest shot of them all came in the third quarter when he crossed over twice before hitting a step-back 3-pointer to put Serbia up 46-45.
It gave Serbia their first lead since being up 7-6 in the first quarter and they wouldn’t trail again in the ball game. They ended up winning 80-70 behind 24 points (8-of-16 FG, 3-of-7 3FG), 10 rebounds, and four assists for Bjelica. Serbia was plus-20 with him on the floor and 15 of his 24 points came in the second half.
Here are the scoring highlights of his game:
Bjelica hit this 3-pointer with Serbia up 66-63 with 3:30 left in the fourth. This dude has range:
Up 71-70 with 1:27 left. This dude has RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANGE:
Yes, it’s the FIBA 3-point line, but he’s a few feet behind it in both shots. Also, a reminder that he’s 6’10” and 235 lbs.
After the game, former Timberwolves legend Miroslav Raduljica said he wasn’t surprised when it comes to those two big 3’s Bjelica hit in the clutch moments. He called him the “professor of big shots.”
"I was not surprised of the shots Bjelica made in the clutch, he is the professor of big shots,” Serbia center Miroslav Raduljica.
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) September 5, 2015
Should be fun to see Professor Big Shots in a Wolves’ uniform for at least the next three seasons. You can watch the EuroBasket (and FIBA Americas) games on WatchESPN.com.