Croatia stunned Spain 72-70 in basketball, coming back from a 14-point third quarter deficit to win their Olympic opener. The win was sealed by soon-to-be 76er Dario Šarić, who swatted Pau Gasol at the buzzer, and set off celebrations as if they had won gold.
Croatia was led by Nets wing Bojan Bogdanović, who went off for 23 points, while Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic paced Spain with 26 and 19 respectively. But while Gasol and Mirotic got little help—and are missing NBAers Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka—just about every Croatian that played chipped in at least a few points.
The turning point came with about 90 seconds left, and Spain nursing a two-point lead. Croatia’s Krunoslav Simon missed a three, but Darko Planinic muscled in for the offensive rebound and put-back. After the inbounds, Sergio Rodriguez’s attempt to push the ball ahead was stolen by Simon, who drove for a layup and a two-point Croatian lead. From there Croatia played solid defense and won with free throws.
It’s just one game, but it’s a big one. Spain is the silver medal favorite, but they’re also old and undermanned. The door is cracked open for some other country to sneak in and lose to the United States in the gold medal game, and Croatia’s victory set them on that path.
A Croatian medal would be their second basketball medal ever. In 1992, led by Dražen Petrović and Toni Kukoč, they lost to the original Dream Team in the gold medal match by 32.