Were you watching as Slovenia and Latvia put on a show? In the 2017 EuroBasket quarterfinals, the two national teams — both sides speckled with NBA stars — played a delightful offensive-minded game, one where Slovenia pulled away in the final minute for a 103-97 victory. It’ll move on in the tournament, but that’s it for Latvia.
Don’t blame Kristaps Porzingis, who scored 34 points in the Latvia defeat all the same. Porzingis was the biggest — literally and figuratively — NBA star in the game, but hardly the only player with name recognition. Due to the unforgiving nature of the single-elimination tournament, Porzingis will have to try again next tournament with Latvia. Meanwhile, Slovenia might be the favorite to win the whole thing, standing now just two games away from a championship.
Really, it was just scintillating to see competitive basketball played at a level this high after a couple of months away from it. We’re not far from the start of the NBA season, of course. Training camps begin later this month. But don’t dismiss EuroBasket between now and then.
Each side had stars, you know
Porzingis was the headliner, but Latvia also had Davis Bertans, the 24-year-old who currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs. Bertans scored 17 points on Tuesday.
Slovenia was led by Goran Dragic, who has had an incredible tournament and continued it with 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, six rebounds, and eight assists. It was his layup that pushed a three-point Slovenia lead to five with 30 seconds left in the contest — essentially sealing the game. One other former NBA player joined Dragic in the starting lineup: Anthony Randolph, who has played overseas since 2014 and had 16 points for his new national team.
The showstopper for Slovenia was Luka Doncic, though.
Doncic is barreling his way toward the 2018 NBA draft, where he’s projected as a top-three pick. It’s quite possible he will be considered the best prospect once we get there next summer, and after watching him dominate EuroBasket, it’s easy to see why. The 18-year-old scored 27 points with nine rebounds against international competition on Tuesday.
Please examine Doncic’s play more closely. This came one play after beating Porzingis off the dribble for a layup:
DONCIC AGAIN! I love how Slovenia ran two pick-and-rolls to get Doncic iso'd on Porzingis. Beautiful. The future is bright. pic.twitter.com/5EnUqlgN4j— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) September 12, 2017
And here’s Doncic nailing a shot from 35 feet, just because:
Luka Doncic from 35 feet. He's taking over as Slovenia - Latvia comes down to the wire. pic.twitter.com/zGtWxPItKd— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) September 12, 2017
We need to start talking about Doncic more. He’s that good. But don’t worry, he’ll make sure that happens.
This was thrilling basketball from tip to buzzer
FIBA games last 40 minutes and most scores range from 60 to 80 points for any given team. High-scoring games don’t directly translate to highly watchable ones, but this one certainly did. The two teams combined for 200 points because they kept making high-level basketball plays.
Slovenia led most of the game, with Latvia leading only briefly in the second quarter and drawing within one point late in the fourth before Slovenia extended it again. (The reason it drew within a point? Porzingis scored seven straight points for Latvia by himself.) But it was tight the whole time, and there was never a lack of scoring.
With Dragic and Doncic, Slovenia is on a mission. Its next game comes against Spain, and that’s also a must-watch event — on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET. See you there.