Great Britain did everything they could to ignite their EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round campaign at the Copper Box Arena against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the dazzling NBA class of Mirza Teletovic made the difference as the visitors took a 80-67 victory in the capital.
Battling GB comeback fails to hold Bosnia
While Great Britain head coach Joe Prunty was able to take pride from the effort of his players after a stirring final quarter rally, his team simply found Teletovic too hot to handle as the Brooklyn Nets forward put on a devastating shooting clinic.
Teletovic claimed a sparkling 25 points for the visitors and made an array of jaw-dropping shots to ultimately take the game out of the reach of the hosts, whose valiant salvage mission in the last period set up a thrilling finish and had the big home crowd on the edge of their seats.
Searching for a strong start after a slow opening in the defeat against Iceland, it was déjà vu for Great Britain after falling 15-5 behind when the visitors found offensive rhythm late in the first quarter. A three-pointer from Teletovic increased the gap to 20-7, but Dan Clark sparked the home side into life with a pair of free-throws and a nice hook shot which helped stem the tide.
Trailing 23-11 heading into the second quarter, Great Britain tried to contain Teletovic, but he dropped successive downtown scores to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina on the front foot and received huge help from the likes of Nemanja Mitrovic who also lit it up from the arc.
Five points in a row from the energetic Kyle Johnson, including a big triple and gorgeous skip to the hoop, kept Great Britain hanging on and that was followed by a nice post move from Matthew Bryan-Amaning and an offensive put-back by Drew Sullivan.
A spectacular dunk from Clark also continued the revival and his team were at least in touching distance of the visitors at 39-24 - even if still being undone by the size, ball movement and clinical shooting of their opponents who led by seventeen at the half-time break.
Hampered by Clark having to seek medical attention for a cut to his face during the third quarter, the arrears were unchanged at 67-50 heading into the final ten minutes.
That was when Great Britain found another gear and played with real purpose and urgency as a bandaged Clark returned. But it was Johnson and the introduction of Ben Mockford off the bench which provided the much-needed spark.
After a huge three-pointer from Kieron Achara, Mockford made a superb jump-shot and when Johnson scored quickly afterwards, Bosnia and Herzegovina were rattled as Great Britain cut the deficit to single digits.
A Mockford free-throw made it 71-64 and an exquisite left-handed lay-up by Achara with four minutes to play kept Great Britain in the hunt - but seven points was to be as close as they would get as Teletovic hit a big shot during crunch time to make the game safe.
Clark finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, Johnson recorded 13 points and eight rebounds, while Achara had another solid contribution of 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
"We just put ourselves too far behind and we can't keep starting slowly and going down like that," explained Coach Prunty to gbbasketball.com.
"That is now two games in a row which we have done this and it's something I really can't figure out.
"Sure, we have to give credit to Teletovic for his great shooting, but it wasn't just him who made big three-pointers early in the game.
"We really can't afford to have these kind of lapses. We have to improve and while I love the fact the team fought back, we need to play for a full forty minutes.
"The fact of the matter is that players have to have an impact and can't afford to feel their way into a game - everyone needs to come ready to play and that is what we have to focus on."
After achieving a historic best-ever finish at the U20 European Championship last summer, Great Britain have handed the reins back to the same coaching team which accomplished this impressive and landmark feat.