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NBA All-Star Jokic shines as Serbia crank up World Cup assault


Agence France-Presse

Serbia and their NBA All-Star Nikola Jokic turned on the style to reach the second round of the Basketball World Cup with a masterful 126-67 demolition of the Philippines on Monday.

The Serbs have a team packed with NBA talent and are the prime threat to reigning two-time champions the United States, who are without their biggest names in China.

Serbia began their title tilt with a 105-59 thrashing of Angola on Saturday and were similarly ruthless in dismissing the Philippines in Foshan.

Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic questioned the World Cup format after successive routs.

“What does it serve to the Philippine team to lose by this difference?” he asked, while also hitting out at some rough treatment dealt out by the losing side.

“I don’t like dirty play, when you have the intention to hurt a player.

“I don’t want my players hurt in the second or third game, you have to stop that. This is not the way to treat the opponent.”

Lumbering Denver Nuggets ace Jokic, who has what it takes to be the player of the tournament and has been likened to an NFL quarterback in the way he dictates games, had 11 points and a game-best seven assists and seven rebounds.

Nemanja Bjelica of the Sacramento Kings led the scoring with 20 points.

It is the first time that Serbia, losing finalists to Team USA in 2014, have won their first two games at the World Cup, underlining their scintillating form.

Serbia’s big win also propelled Italy into the second round — the two teams face up on Wednesday in what promises to be a blockbuster for Group D supremacy. The pair were the first teams into round two.

With another spot in the next round at stake, hosts China were forced into the first overtime of the competition after they tied 72-72 with Poland in regulation time.

Over five extra minutes of action in front of an exhilarated crowd in Beijing, it was the Poles who prevailed, 79-76, leaving China sweating going into final group action.

– Ugly flashpoint –
An Angola player aimed a vicious headbutt at an opponent as Italy thrashed the Africans 92-61.

Italy look in ominous form, hammering the Philippines 108-62 in their opener before handing out more punishment to the Angolans in Foshan.

But there was a flashpoint involving all the players from both teams with seconds left of the match after Angola’s Leonel Paulo and Alessandro Gentile clashed.

The 26-year-old Gentile shoved Paulo and the latter responded in kind, before appearing to make contact with the Italian’s nose with his forehead.

Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs racked up 17 points and Kentucky-born Jeff Brooks also starred for Italy with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two steals.

“Serbia are the best team in the tournament but we are not scared about that,” said the 33-year-old guard Belinelli.

Argentina also reached the second round as they defeated Nigeria 94-81. Russia joined them in making it out of Group B.

Luis Scola scored 23 points to reach 611 points in his Basketball World Cup career and move to second on the all-time tournament scoring list.

The 39-year-old, taking part in his fifth World Cup, is however well behind Oscar Schmidt.

The legendary Brazilian finished his career with 906 points.