NBA Summer League: Croatia Hold their Own in Loss Against Brooklyn Nets

Daniela Rogulj

Croatia’s second NBA Summer League game against the Brooklyn Nets ended 58:74, though the result isn’t entirely reflective of Croatia, who, similarly to the first match against Detroit, managed to hold their own, reports Sportske Novosti on July 8, 2019. 

Croatia even seemed better at times than two days ago, like at the start of the second half after Antonio Vranković scored for 39:37. Although the Nets had good rhythm, Croatia figured out their flow by halftime and found a solution for the aggressive Gray and Kurucs.

The entire third quarter, unlike against Detroit, was equal, though the problems began at the beginning of the last quarter. The Nets used their speed, which Croatia was unable to follow. But even with their high intensity, Croatia looked better on the court than they did on Friday. The Nets are also competing with two players who had serious playing time in the NBA last season –  Jarrett Allen and the Latvian Rodions Kurucs. The team also features Džanan Musa, who scored 15 points.

Željko Šakić achieved a double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and one assist.

“It was the same as in the first game, we did well, but we had a black hole at the beginning of the last quarter. I think we are presenting ourselves in a good light here and playing well. This is a challenge, we have young players, but in these two games, a lot was good. As far as I’m concerned, I do not feel too much of a difference except in physical strength, because I have never played a physically demanding game, but I am grateful to the coach that I’m here, I’m living the dream,” said Željko Šakić, the oldest in the team and the captain of Croatia in Las Vegas. 

Croatia’s top scorer on Sunday was Antonio Vranković, who scored 12 points, and collected eight rebounds, assist and two blocks.

“We went into the game worse, but we woke and were better. The coach set up a zone, and we did our job. We were much better than in the first game; we looked better as a team, we were able to handle the game more energetically. I hope we get at least one victory here,” said Antonio Vranković.

“The attack was better on Friday, but we showed a lot of good things now. In the last 35 minutes, they only scored 56 points. We are showing from game to game that we can match up with these guys and that deserves a positive rating,” said coach Veljko Mršić.

Ermal Kuqo, a scout for the Clippers, concluded.

“The arrival of Croatia in Las Vegas is the best thing that could happen for Croatian basketball. Just look at how the players are cheering for each other, jumping from the bench. This did not happen in your team before.”

Ivica Zubac and his girlfriend Kristina could also be seen in the crowd against the Nets. Recall, Zubac just signed a $28 million contract with the LA Clippers.

“I am surprised, I watched the first game on TV, and after watching it live the guys are really holding their own.”

Croatia will play their third match of the NBA Summer League on Tuesday at 9:30 pm against Oklahoma City. According to what both teams have shown so far, this could be the first real opportunity for Croatia to get an NBA win. 

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