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FIBA World Cup Recap: Dario Saric Scores 16, Wins Game, Loses SIX Teeth

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Croatia beat Argentina, and Dario Saric looked good again. His pearly whites took a beating, however. Here, looking at specific positives and negatives gleaned from his performance.

Andres Nocioni needs to get out of my life.
Andres Nocioni needs to get out of my life.
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Dario Saric played vrlo dorbo this morning in a 90-85 victory for Croatia over an aging Argentina squad. Saric finished with 16 points (on 5-12 shooting) and 9 rebounds in about 26 minutes, and his teeth plus/minus rating was a minus-1 MINUS-6 (via Nets Daily) Holy crap.

Dario's teeth got knocked out during the third quarter while Croatia had possession. He subsequently asked out of the game, causing the FIBA announcers to call him out for being tired while being the youngest player on the court by a good margin. Then everyone realized he lost a tooth SIX FREAKING TEETH and was bleeding. Saric nailed a three before sitting out for about 8 minutes of game time and finally returned to the game and again played well.

Knowing that the game itself wasn't as important to us as the skills Dario showed, I focused on the game played surrounding him, and hopefully I can bring some insight (sans video, because the game just happened, so apologies in advance).

Saric once again started off the game strong, with 6 quick points. 4 of those came while Argentina employed a zone defense they had to quickly abandon. Saric already is a great "zone buster" and should only get better. Zones, as ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla pointed out during Team USA's game yesterday, are best used as a "curveball"-style defense, in that as a base good teams can figure out zones over time, but in short spurts they can be very effective.

Argentina's zone was, to use the Pokemon term, not very effective, because Croatia is a skilled team well-equipped to handle zone defenses. Saric was at the center of it all - as much as it's popular to call a three point shooter a zone buster, I find that skilled passers, cutters, and finishers are just as important. Saric made 2 of his 6 three point attempts and is a work in progress at that element of the game, but he's good at those other three things. When Argentina went to the zone, he cut to the open areas (top of the key, the box on the baseline) and made plays.

On three consecutive possessions against the zone, Saric made two baskets inside - nifty floaters over the defense - and contributed an assist (his only one, according to the box score, though I would have sworn he had two during the game) to an open teammate behind the three point line.

Not everything was completely positive, and those negative things need to be addressed too. Argentina clearly identified Saric as the weakest Croatian defender and game planned early to take advantage of that.

Now in the NBA, that's not always a bad thing. NBA teams default entirely too often to attacking poor match ups through one-on-one faceoffs. Mark Jackson's Warriors last year would often go for full 6 minute stretches where they called exclusively for Klay Thompson post ups because he had a 3 inch height advantage over his defender, and it's maddening because one-on-one basketball is (a) not as effective as team basketball and (b) not as fun to watch.

FIBA national teams don't default to that brand of offense, because basketball around the world isn't played that way. Instead those teams attack poor defenders by running them ragged, waiting for a mistake, and breaking down the full defense through taking advantage of the poor defenders. This is also how the San Antonio Spurs have played since the mid-2000s.

Argentina started the game attacking Saric off the dribble, whether he was defending ace penetrators like Walter Hermann or Ghost of Sixers Past Andres Nocioni. Please note my sarcasm. Saric also got caught behind back screens while chasing these speedsters, forcing his teammates to help him, which eventually created open looks for Argentina.

To start the game Argentina went to that well on nearly every possession. They attacked Saric less and less as the game progressed, however, instead focusing on running their offense through Luis Scola and taking advantage of another mismatch - Scola against either Croatian center. Saric was fortunate especially since he picked up two early fouls. Scola is his team's centerpiece, and it makes sense that they would go to him repeatedly as the game wore on, but it gave Saric a break.

He really could use a break (non-tooth related), as Croatia plays again tomorrow morning. I could also use said break, because these games are so freaking early.