Bojan Bogdanovic keys furious comeback, but Croatia eliminated by France in first round, 69-64

Bojan Bogdanovic, Nicolas Batum

If you wanted to watch Bojan Bogdanovic in tournament play before the season, I hope you tuned in this afternoon, because it was your last chance — and a great one. Despite Bogdanovic’s game-high 27 points and a heroic effort down the stretch to erase a 16-point lead, the Croatian team couldn’t stop France, falling 69-64 and losing in the first round of the FIBA Round of 16.

France took advantage after a hot start from Bogdanovic, outscoring the Croatian team 39-15 on a two-quarter run between the second and third quarter, extending their lead to 46-30 midway through the third.

Bogdanovic responded with big shot after big shot down the stretch, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter and hitting a three-pointer off of a turnover to cut the lead to 66-64. But after Croatia stopped France on the other end, Bogdanovic missed a long isolation three-pointer over French forward Nicolas Batum’s fingertips with 22 seconds left that would’ve given his team a one-point lead.

Bogdanovic matched up all game against Batum, a lanky, talented NBA forward for the Portland Trail Blazers, and Bogdanovic promptly outscored France in the first quarter, dropping nine points in a variety of ways as Croatia sped out to a 15-7 lead. But Batum limited Bogdanovic on the offensive end as the game progressed, using his length and quickness to take Bogdanovic out of possessions and force turnovers.

Croatia took a step back in the middle quarters, as Bogdanovic was held to two points in each and wasn’t involved on a number of their chances. The offense stagnated with Bogdanovic out of the game, and they struggled to re-integrate him into the offense when he returned. His lone shot in the second quarter was a pretty turnaround jumper that gave him 11 points, half of Croatia’s output through the first half.

His elimination leaves Mason Plumlee as the only Nets player still participating in the FIBA tournament.

Bogdanovic’s final stat line: 27 points, 11-19 FG (3-7 from 3), six rebounds, two steals, one assist, four fouls, zero turnovers. Next stop: the United States, where he’ll be at Brooklyn’s training camp that opens in late September.

A few extra notes:

  • There’s a lot of possessions to watch and one game could mean anything, but Bogdanovic seems to gamble quite a bit on defense, with sometimes disastrous results. Late in the fourth quarter he lost Mickael Gelabale on a big corner three, and a few possessions later he actually slid past Nicolas Batum 30 feet from the basket. He doesn’t have the athleticism to gamble on NBA-level athletes, and Lionel Hollins will have to adjust him accordingly. It’s possible that Croatia’s defensive system, which seems to require that they switch at nearly every possible moment, has something to do with this — it’s easier to lose where you are when where you have to be changes three times in 15 seconds.

  • Bogdanovic’s shooting touch is evident, but he only shows one go-to move in the post: a turnaround jumper where he spins either over his right shoulder or towards the baseline. That’s not a look he can rely on over and over again against NBA defenses.