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China’s Kaier Li (left) blocks Serbia’s Borisa Simanic (right) during the Fiba Basketball World Cup group B match at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on August 26. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic paid tribute to teammate Borisa Simanic, who underwent surgery to remove a kidney at the Basketball World Cup, after beating Lithuania to reach the semi-finals on Tuesday.

Serbia won 87-68 as the knock-out phase got under way in Manila but had to play without Simanic, who was hospitalised after being hit by an opposition player’s elbow earlier in the competition.

Complications arising from the operation meant he had to have further surgery on Sunday, when one of his kidneys was removed.

Bogdanovic said Simanic addressed the squad before their quarter-final and gave them “amazing energy”.

“He said ‘Guys, I’m good, don’t worry, let’s win tonight’,” said Bogdanovic, who finished as the game’s top scorer with 21 points.

“For him to think about us after everything that happened to him, he united us.

“That’s an amazing guy and this is for him.”

Bogdanovic put in an all-action performance as Serbia downed a previously unbeaten Lithuania team that went into the game fresh from a win over the United States.

The Serbians took control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring Lithuania 25-13 to open up a lead that they never gave back.

Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Bogdanovic had 18 points in the first half alone and said his team had to give “300 per cent” to win the game.

“It’s really important for us as athletes first and then for our country,” he said.

“You know how much we love the game of basketball, so we’re happy that we’re there. We are ready to compete more.”

‘Sometimes I’m crazy’

Serbia will face either Canada or Slovenia in Friday’s semi-finals.

They will be looking for another strong defensive effort after holding Lithuania to just 30 points in the second half.

Filip Petrusev helped his team’s effort by coming off the bench to score 17 points and claim six rebounds.

Bogdanovic is emerging as the leader of a team that is without the resting Nikola Jokic, who led the Denver Nuggets to last season’s NBA title and was named MVP of the Finals.

“I play a game of basketball on instinct, and sometimes I’m crazy and sometimes I shoot too much, I know,” said Bogdanovic.

“Tonight was the way that I hope I play until the end of the tournament.”

Lithuania could not repeat the heroics they performed against the United States, who they beat 110-104 in the second round.

Star man Jonas Valanciunas was held to 11 points as Serbia’s stifling defence smothered them out of the game.

Lithuania’s Tadas Sedekerskis, who led his team in scoring with 14 points, said the win over the US team did not take their minds off the prize.

“We came here to win a medal,” he said.

“We knew that if we wanted to do that, we had to beat Serbia today in the quarter-finals.

“The game against the United States, as you can see now, means nothing, just history.”

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US's Paolo Banchero dunks the ball during the Basketball World Cup quarter-final match against Italy at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila on Tuesday. Image Credit: AFP

United States win

The United States rebounded from their first defeat of the Basketball World Cup to book their place in the semi-finals with a resounding 100-63 win over Italy on Tuesday.

The Americans put their second-round loss to Lithuania firmly in their rearview mirror with a dynamic quarter-final performance to set up a showdown with either Germany or Latvia on Friday.

Mikal Bridges led the US in scoring with 24 points, and the Brooklyn Nets small forward also pulled down 7 rebounds.

Tyrese Haliburton was the winning team’s second-highest scorer with 18 points, followed by Austin Reaves on 12.

The US stamped their authority on the game from the first tip, and were 10 points ahead by the end of the first quarter.

Their lead grew to 22 by the end of a first half that saw crowd favourite Reaves provide a highlight with a massive rebound dunk.

Italy came into the game with the same 4-1 win-loss record as the US but their shooting touch deserted them, making only 23 of 75 field-goal attempts.

Simone Fontecchio was Italy’s top scorer with 18 points, followed by Stefano Tonut on 11.

Germany play Latvia and Canada take on Slovenia on the second day of quarter-finals on Wednesday.