Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić, Juancho Hernangómez power Serbia and Spain to 4-0 starts
Nikola Jokić and Juancho Hernangómez’s stellar form in the FIBA World Cup has carried into the tournament’s second round as both Serbia and Spain remain undefeated through four games.
Jokić continued his efficient dominance in the tournament, putting up a double-double, comprised of 14 points and 10 rebounds, in just 17 minutes against Puerto Rico in a 90-47 pounding. Jokić shot 6 of 8 in Friday’s win. It was another commanding performance by Serbia, who put away Puerto Rico – one of the tournament’s biggest surprises – with ease. Nemanja Bjelica led all scorers with 18 points on 60 percent shooting to go along with six boards and three assists. Former Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman also played 19 minutes in the game, scoring four points and adding a block and a steal.
In Friday’s final game, Hernangómez scored a game-high 16 points to lead Spain against a determined Italy in a 67-60 win in Wuhan. The Nuggets’ reserve forward shot 6 of 10 and grabbed four rebounds, adding another impressive game to Spaniard’s World Cup so far. With La Roja trailing by one after halftime following a largely defensive 31-30 first half, Hernangómez took over in the third quarter – scoring 11 points. It was an assertive performance for the 23-year-old, who is compiling impressive showings throughout the tournament. Hernangómez is averaging 12 points, 6.8 rebounds and shooting 58.1 percent from the floor. Nuggets’ alum Danilo Gallinari had 15 points and five rebounds for Italy.
Serbia and Spain will face each other in the Game 2 of the second group stage Sunday (6:30 a.m. MT, ESPN +). The two national teams have had contrasting performances in the World Cup as Serbia has bested teams with its passing and offensive skill while Spain has prevailed against its opponents with solid defense. Serbia currently leads all teams in points per game (103.3), field goal shooting (60.7 percent) and assists (30.8).
Nuggets center Mason Plumlee will look to continue to improve after posting five rebounds and chipping in a bucket in the Team USA’s last contest. The red, white and blue take on Greece on Saturday in Game 1 of the second group stage. (6:30 a.m. MT, ESPN+)