Thanks to Dario Saric playing in the 2016 Summer Olympics, Sixers fans finally have the opportunity to watch the player they have been hearing about for two years, and on one of the biggest stages in the world. Saric played in his 3rd game of the Olympics today, and he has been impressive in every single game. Saric and Croatia defeated the host country Brazil today 80-76 to put them at 2-1 now for the tournament.
In order to even get to the Olympics, Saric and Croatia needed to win the Olympic Qualifying tournament. Saric helped Croatia knock off two very well respected teams in Greece and Italy to win their group and ultimately advance to the Summer Games in Rio. Saric was named the MVP of the Qualifying tournament. Saric averaged a double-double in the tournament, posting 14 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Once the team arrived in Rio, there first task was to play the 2nd ranked team in the world coming into the Olympic Games, Spain. Alongside teammate Bojan Bogdanovic, Saric helped Croatia make a comeback and take the lead in the closing minutes of the game. Saric sunk 1 of 2 free throws to put Croatia up by 2 with 12 seconds remaining. Spain found themselves with the ball underneath the basket with 1.8 seconds left. The Spaniards drew up a terrific play and the ball was inbounded to Pau Gasol for what appeared to be an easy layup, but Saric read the play perfectly and shifted over to block Gasol’s shot and win the game for Croatia. This wasn’t Saric’s best statistical game, but he caught the attention of many with his play, including national afternoon radio host Colin Cowherd. Saric finished with 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Saric and Croatia’s next game came against Manu Ginobili and Argentina. Even though Croatia wound up losing to Argentina by a score of 90-82, this was easily Saric’s best statistical game. Saric posted a double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 boards. Saric was three assists away from a triple-double as he was the main reason Croatia was in the game in the 4th quarter. Saric helped Croatia make a comeback in the 4th quarter, but in the end Argentina had too much experience and it proved to be the deciding factor.
Saric’s third game was this afternoon against Brazil. After struggling in the first half of their first game against Lithuania, Brazil made a comeback in the 2nd half but ended up falling to Lithuania. Brazil defeated Spain in an upset in their 2nd game, so they came into today’s game with a 1-1 record along with Croatia. Croatia led the Brazilians by 10 at the half, but the experience on Team Brazil’s side allowed them to make a comeback in the 4th quarter. But, Saric and Bogdanovic came up in the clutch to help put the game away. Saric hit a clutch three-pointer to put Croatia up 9 with just a few minutes remaining. After Brazil drilled back-to-back three pointers to shrink Croatia’s lead back down to 3. Then, after a missed layup by Bogdanovic, Saric showed his intensity on the glass by grabbing another offensive board and laid it back in to put his team up by 5 and officially seal the game for the Croatians. Saric finished today’s game with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Sari’s play has come as no surprise to those who have seen him play overseas the last two seasons. But, for Sixers fans getting their first look at 22 year old forward, there is plenty of reason to get excited. Saric has played like a typical stretch four. He has the ability to grab boards, both on the offensive and defensive end. Saric has proven that he has the ability to score as well, even though his post up moves could use a little work, and I think his future 76ers teammate Jahlil Okafor would be happy to help. Saric’s defense has been what has been most impressive to me. He has shown the toughness to guard big men on the block, and the ability to step out and defend on the perimeter as well. Overall, Saric has averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists in his first three games of the tournament. Saric is shooting an impressive 47.6% from the field, and a less than impressive 62.5% from the free throw line.
Saric and Croatia will play their next game on Saturday against Nigeria. The game is scheduled to be played at 9:30 p.m. EST.