FOSHAN, China – Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic questioned the FIBA World Cup format after successive routs that easily propelled the tournament favorite into the round of 16.
"What does it serve to the Philippine team to lose by this difference?" Djordjevic asked after whipping Gilas Pilipinas by 59 points in Group D action on Monday, September 2.
NBA All-Star Nikola Jokic turned on the style as the Serbs boast a team packed with NBA talent and tipped as the prime threat to reigning two-time champion the United States, which is playing minus the team’s biggest names.
It’s the first time that Serbia – the losing finalists to Team USA in 2014 – won its first two games at the World Cup, underlining the squad’s scintillating form.
"I don't like dirty play, when you have the intention to hurt a player,” he said.
"I don't want my players hurt in the second or third game, you have to stop that. This is not the way to treat the opponent."
Lumbering Denver Nuggets ace Jokic, who has what it takes to be the player of the tournament and has been likened to an NFL quarterback in the way he dictates games, had 11 points and a game-best 7 assists and 7 rebounds.
Nemanja Bjelica of the Sacramento Kings led the scoring with 20 points.
Serbia's big win also propelled Italy into the second round – the two teams face up on Wednesday in what promises to be a blockbuster for Group D supremacy. The two were the first teams to clinch berths in the second round.
Meannwile, an Angola player aimed a vicious headbutt at an opponent as Italy thrashed the Africans, 92-61.
Italy look in ominous form, hammering the Philippines, 108-62, in their opener Saturday before handing out more punishment to the Angolans in Group D.
But there was a flashpoint involving all the players from both teams with seconds left of the match after Angola's Leonel Paulo and Alessandro Gentile clashed.
The 26-year-old Gentile shoved Paulo and the latter responded in kind, before appearing to make contact with the Italian's nose with his forehead.
Marco Belinelli of the the San Antonio Spurs racked up 17 points and Kentucky-born Jeff Brooks also starred for Italy with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 2 steals.
“[The Serbians] are the best team in the tournament but we are not scared about that," said the 33-year-old guard Belinelli.
Argentina also reached the second round as it defeated Nigeria, 94-81. Russia joined them in making it out of Group B.
Luis Scola scored 23 points to reach 611 points in his World Cup career and move to second on the all-time tournament scoring list.
The 39-year-old, taking part in his fifth World Cup, is however well behind Oscar Schmidt.
The legendary Brazilian finished his career with 906 points.
In Group A, host China was forced into the first overtime of the competition after it tied 72-72 with Poland in regulation time.
Over 5 extra minutes of action in front of an exhilarated crowd in Beijing, it was the Poles who prevailed, 79-76, leaving China sweating going into final group action.
Day 3 results
Venezuela 87, Ivory Coast 71
Poland 79, China 76 (OT)
Argentina 94, Nigeria 81
Russia 87, South Korea 73
Tunisia 79, Iran 67
Spain 73, Puerto Rico 63
Italy 92, Angola 61
Serbia 126, Philippines 67