Bloody and battered Luka Doncic drops 47 points in Slovenia’s EuroBasket win over France

COLOGNE, Germany — Late in the first half of the Slovenian national team’s EuroBasket game on Wednesday, France seemed to discover the one thing that could slow down Luka Doncic’s dominance:

An elbow to the head.

But not even blood dripping from a gash under his hair and the sewn half-time haircut didn’t deter Doncic from a thrilling performance in Slovenia’s 88-82 win over France.

Doncic had a EuroBasket national team record 47 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the victory to help Slovenia finish the group stage of the tournament with a 4-1 record and clinch the seeded in the ultra-competitive Group B.

Defending EuroBasket 2017 champions Slovenia will start the Round of 16 on Saturday in Berlin with a Round of 16 against fourth place in Group A. Higher placing in Group B meant Slovenia did not face the others medal favorites Serbia (with Nikola Jokic) to the semi-finals or Greece (with Giannis Antetokounmpo) to the medal rounds, whichever comes first.

Doncic – battered but bold as always – is the reason.

“He’s our Wonder Boy,” guard Zoran Dragic said, “and I’m glad he’s Slovenian.”

Throughout Wednesday’s first half, Doncic emptied bucket after bucket, three after three to look as paced and dynamic as he had less than a day earlier in a 36 beat points and 10 rebounds over undefeated host Germany.

The 23-year-old even drained a one-foot 3-point float from the corner on NBA defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert that elicited a collective gasp from the Lanxess Arena crowd.

And, internally, his teammate Vlatko Cancar.

“When I saw that,” the Denver Nuggets forward said, “I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be a long night for France. “”

Although on the second night in a row, Doncic played the first 19 minutes without a rest – until he jumped for a loose ball with 38 seconds left until half-time and took a blow to the head arm of French striker Vincent Poirier.

The Mavericks superstar immediately fell to the field, clutching her head with both arms as she cowered in pain. He checked for bleeding before getting up.

He walked onto the pitch as officials reviewed the unsportsmanlike conduct and lay down by Slovenia’s basket before play resumed.

After the coaches tended to him with towels to clean up the blood that ran down his head, Doncic left for the locker room.

Apprehension mounted when Doncic failed to return to the pitch with Slovenia for the second-half warm-up around 15 minutes later.

“We were afraid of how he would continue,” said Slovenian striker Edo Muric.

Already hampered this week by pain in his right wrist which he says in a Slovenian interview hampered his shooting rhythm, Doncic can add stitches to his head and a problem with his left hand which required sticking two fingers together set in the second half to the list of evils. he will be nursing during the two-day break in Slovenia to travel to Berlin.

But he didn’t seem concerned about injury or fatigue on the second straight night in the thrilling end to the game.

After France used a late run to erase Slovenia’s double-digit lead and level the score at 82 with around two minutes to play, veteran guard Goran Dragic restored Slovenia’s advantage with a steal and a score at 1:20. Doncic secured the rebound on France’s ensuing shot attempt, and Cancar cushioned the win with a jumper in the final minute.

“It’s not easy,” said Goran Dragic. “But at the same time, if you want to win a gold medal or a medal, you have to sacrifice yourself for every possession.”

A bit of context for what made Doncic’s performance particularly impressive and meaningful:

  • FIBA games are eight minutes shorter than the NBA, but Doncic had only twice scored more than 47 points in his five years with the Mavericks – a career-high 51 in 10 February against the Los Angeles Clippers and 49 on February 17 against the New Orleans Pelicans.
  • Doncic recorded the highest performance at EuroBasket in the last 65 years without his partner of choice, Mike Tobey, who suffered an ankle injury.
  • He and Gobert have developed a heated NBA rivalry — and each committed technical fouls on Wednesday — but Doncic prevailed again in their first head-to-head meeting since the Mavericks’ first-round playoff victory over the Utah Jazz.
  • Slovenia came within a buzzer block after beating France in the Olympic semi-finals last summer, and while that group stage final didn’t guarantee medal redemption, Doncic still flinched, shouted and kicked the ball into the stands at the buzzer to show just how much the win meant.

“Every game he played like it was the final,” Muric said. “When he starts smiling, then you know you’re in trouble.”

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