Cologne, Germany – Late in the first half of the Slovenian national team’s European Basketball Championship game on Wednesday, France appeared to have discovered the one thing that could slow down Luka Doncic’s dominance:
Elbow to the head.
But even blood dripping from his hair and stitches at half-time prevented Doncic from making a dramatic performance in Slovenia’s 88-82 victory over France.
Doncic scored 47 points for the national team – EuroBasket, seven rebounds and five assists in the win to help Slovenia finish the tournament’s group stage with a 4-1 record and snatch the top seed from Group B.
Defending champions of the 2017 European Basketball Championship, Slovenia will begin the knockout stages on Saturday in Berlin with a round of 16 match against the fourth-placed qualifier from Group A. ) until the semi-finals or Greece (with Giannis Antetokounmpo) until the medal rounds, as soon as possible.
Doncic – battered but ever daring – is to blame.
“He’s our wonder boy,” said goalkeeper Zoran Dragic, “and I’m glad he’s Slovenian.”
During the first half of Wednesday, Doncic unloaded one bucket after another, three by three to look as harmonious and dynamic as he had done less than a full day earlier. 36 points and 10 rebounds against the unbeaten hosts Germany.
The 23-year-old even exhausted one foot and three points from a corner kick on NBA strongman Rudy Gobert, which sparked a collective outcry from the Lanxess Arena fans.
And internally from his colleague Flatko Kankar.
“When I saw that, I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be a long night for France,'” said the Denver Nuggets striker. “
Although on the second night from back to back, Doncic played the first 19 minutes without rest – until he jumped for a loose ball with 38 seconds left and was hit in the head by the arm of France striker Vincent Poirier.
The Mavericks star immediately fell to the court, clutching his head with both arms as he writhed in pain. He was checking for bleeding before standing up.
He walked onto the field while officials were reviewing unsportsmanlike behaviour, and lay near a Slovenia basket before play resumed.
After the coaches groomed him with towels to clean the blood spurting down his head, Doncic walked into the locker room.
Fears escalated when Doncic did not return to the field for Slovenia in the second half of the warm-up after about 15 minutes.
“We were afraid he would continue,” said Slovenia striker Ido Muric.
Already disabled this week with right wrist pain He said in a Slovenian interview that hampered the rhythm of the shooting, Doncic could add stitches in his head and an issue with his left hand requiring two fingers to be tied together in the second half to the list of illnesses he would fall ill during Slovenia – a day off to travel to Berlin.
But he didn’t seem concerned about injury or fatigue on the second night of a back-to-back game at the end of the match.
After France used a late run to erase Slovenia’s two-digit lead and tied the score at 82 with about two minutes remaining, veteran goalkeeper Goran Dragic regained Slovenia’s advantage by stealing and scoring at the 1:20 mark, Doncic secured the rebound. In France’s attempt to pay off that followed, Kancar tempered the win with a last-minute play.
“It’s not easy,” said Dragic. “But at the same time, if you want to win a gold medal, or a medal, you have to sacrifice for every possession.”
Some context for what made Doncic’s performance so impressive and meaningful:
- FIBA matches are eight minutes shorter than the NBA, but Doncic has scored more than 47 points just twice in his five years with the Mavericks – a The highest level is 51 on February 10 against the Los Angeles Clippers and 49 on February 17 against the New Orleans Pelicans.
- Doncic scored the highest EuroBasket performance in the last 65 years without his pick-and-roll partner, Mike Toby, who missed out with an ankle injury.
- He and Gobert developed a mild rivalry in the NBA – and both faced technical fouls Wednesday – but Doncic prevailed again in their first head-to-head encounter since then. The Mavericks defeated the Utah Jazz in the first round.
- Slovenia came one Banning the bell from hitting France In the semi-finals of last summer’s Olympics, and although the group stage finals did not guarantee medal redemption, Doncic still flexed, screamed and tossed the ball into the stands at the bell to show how much he had won.
“In every match, he was playing as if it was the final,” said Muric. “When he starts smiling, you know you’re in trouble.”