BOCAUE, Bulacan—(UPDATED) Powerhouse Serbia bucked a slow start and foul trouble to defeat the Netherlands, 16-13, and win the men's gold medal in the 2018 FIBA 3x3 Basketball World Cup at Philippine Arena here on Tuesday.
In a rematch of last year's title game, Serbia struggled out of the gates and was in penalty by the 5:28 mark, but got huge buckets from ace player Dusan Bulut to spark the comeback.
This is Serbia's third straight title in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup, and fourth in the five editions of the event, underscoring their status as a dominant force in international 3x3 game.
"We didn't play our best game, that's for sure," admitted Bulut, who had seven points in the win. "I think we can do much, much better."
"But this championship, nobody can take this from us," he added.
In a low-scoring contest, the Netherlands seized an 8-6 lead with 4:33 to go off back-to-back buckets from Jesper Jobse. But a lay-up by Dejan Majstorovic and a bucket from Bulut tied the count at eight, signaling the start of the defending champion's charge.
After Sjoerd van Vilsteren split his charities, Bulut knocked down a jumper – his lone two-pointer of the game – to give Serbia its first lead. The two squads exchanged buckets in the next few possessions, with Dimeo Van der Horst tying the game for the last time at 11 with 1:29 left to play.
But Stefan Stojačić drilled a two-point jumper, and Marko Savić completed an and-1 to make it 15-11 for Serbia with a minute left. The Netherlands still had its chances, especially when van Vilsteren scored on a lay-up for a 15-12 count with 56.2 seconds to go, but Bulut ended the Dutch side's hopes of a comeback with a lay-up to peg the final score.
"It was always a pleasure to play against our friend from the Netherlands, they are very good friends off the court, but on the court, they are every time motivated to beat us," said Savić.
"Last year, we beat them in the final. This year, they get different roster, much better, and they also wanted to beat us. So against them, it's always hard, but we gave our best, not the best game, but at the end it was worth the gold medal," he added.
Serbia completed an unbeaten run in the tournament, while also repeating its group round victory over the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, Slovenia earned the bronze medal after fending off Poland, 21-16. This is Slovenia's first podium appearance since 2016, when it also placed third.
SERBIA 16 — Bulut 7, Stojacic 4, Savic 3, Majstorovic 2.
NETHERLANDS 13 — Jobse 6, Van Vilsteren 4, Van der Horst 3, Roije 0.
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