Two days after dropping 19 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in a loss against Argentina, Dario Saric showed out once again.
In a tight contest against a surprisingly competitive Brazil team, it was Dario’s late game heroics (sound familiar?) that helped ice an 80-76 win for Croatia. He finished with 15 points (5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT), 7 rebounds, and three assists.
Despite starting the game 0-4, the 22-year-old began to find his rhythm in the second quarter. He knocked down his first three-point attempt of the 2016 Olympic Games at the 8:37 mark of the second quarter, and added another trey before the half.
He was relatively dormant during the third quarter, but turned it on when his team needed him the most. With Brazil lingering late into the fourth, Saric stepped into a beautiful catch-and-shoot three to extend Croatia’s lead to nine. Alex Garcia and Guilherme Giovannoni answered with two threes of their own to cut the lead to just three points, but Dario would answer the call once again. On a Bojan Bogdanovic missed layup, Saric threw himself into the mass of bodies in the paint, corralled the rebound, and scored to put the game effectively out of reach.
Overall, another really solid day for the man from Šibenik. When he gets his feet set and steps into his shot, Saric really does have a nice three-point stroke. He has an odd tendency to rock back on his jumpers which seems to put him off kilter (possibly in an effort to create some space), but that didn’t seem to be an issue today. He’s now 3-14 from beyond the arc through Olympic play.
One underrated aspect of his game has been his defense. Saric is doing an exceptional job of handling switches and making plays on the ball. Early in the fourth quarter, Saric came across the lane to reject a dunk bound Rafael Hettsheimer before throwing a gorgeous outlet pass to Bojan Bogdanovic. Outside of his jumper, one of the biggest question marks surrounding his game is his ability to defend, but he’s been locked in through three group play games.
The only real negative takeaway from today’s game was his struggles on drives to the rim. He spent most of the game being defended by Nene, who despite being old and slow still prevented Saric from doing any real damage around the rim. Although he’s a really good rebounder, Dario doesn’t have much strength to help him on drives and post ups. Late in the fourth, he attempted to back down 6’ 4” guard Alex Garcia, who barely budged before stripping him of the ball. Those things are worth monitoring, but otherwise Saric gets a thumbs up on Thursday.
Croatia will be back in action Saturday against Nigeria at 9:30 p.m.