The Timberwolves’ Nemanja Bjelica scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Serbia past Spain 80-70 in the featured match of the opening day of the European Basketball Championship on Saturday.
Also, Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Schroeder scored 15 points each to lead host Germany to a surprisingly close 71-65 victory over Iceland.
“It may have been the best game of his career,” Serbia coach Aleksandar Djordjevic said of Bjelica, who will be a rookie this year for the Wolves. His future teammate, Ricky Rubio, is not playing for Spain this year to make sure he’s healthy for the Wolves season.
Serbia, the silver medalist at last year’s World Cup, scored the first five points and kept Spain scoreless until Rudy Fernandez’s three-point play with 4:58 left in the first quarter. But Spain quickly put together a 12-0 run and had a 10-point lead after the first quarter.
In the last quarter, Pau Gasol singlehandedly brought Spain within one with less than two minutes left. But Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic nailed three-pointers to protect Serbia’s victory.