Slovenia out-muscles Australia 90:80 in their first outing in the World cup, led by Goran Dragic (21 points) who set the tone early with a showcase of all the skills that make him the best PG on the Suns and an undisputed MVP for team Slovenia.
This is it boys and girls, no more limited minutes for Goran Dragic, no more hiding of tactics, no more half-assed (hopefully) approach to the game, this is where we see if The Dragon can bring his A-game despite him being the focal point of every opposing defense.
In the words of The Joker: And here.we.go...
Disclaimer: I may get a bit emotional watching this...
Good defense, Gogi steals his first ball, players are really tuned into the game. Then Gogi gets an offensive rebound and finishes at the rim with two opposing players on him. Keep up the good work. And a good pick and roll later, our 23-year old center has 4 points after a strong dunk. And another great move by Gogi, draws a triple team and finds an open man for a wide open three. But the Australians are shooting well from deep. Gogi makes a great cross-over, step-back three and a steal for SLO in the next possession. And still the Aussies are shooting well from deep, keeping the game close. Our center is looking great and our guards are penetrating easily. Gogi passes to his bro for a wide-open three, that's run and gun for you, although the defense lacks some focus. Another strong move by Goran right into the Spur Aron Baynes and Slovenia is up by 8, forcing a time-out by the down-underdogs.
After the short breather, Zoran with two good defensive plays, if he gets his shot to fall, he's NBA-bound, you mark my words. Goran rolls under the rim and finishes over Baynes again, pushing the lead to 10, for a bit anyway. And then he gets called for an offensive foul...let's call that a questionable call. Good team defense by Slo and it's obvious our "bigs" are shorter but more agile, something they need to exploit. Gogi is resting, the game slowed right down. After the first, Slovenia is up 27:19 and looking good offensively, shots are falling and Goran is on his game, step-backs, threes, drive-and-kicks, all the while the opposing D can't really do anything to slow him down. Let's hope he doesn't breathe fire only in the first. And we're great on D, 7 RBDs to 2, take that, Aussie bigs! (just kidding, don't hurt us).
Great D by Slovenia, they're giving it all, just as we hoped. And Jaka Blazic makes a Wade-like shot. I'm pumped! Slo is up by 12. And another three by Blazic and another good defensive effort, 34:21 for Slovenia that is shooting 4/7 from deep. Gogi is back, looses the ball in his first possession. And another fumbled ball forces a time-out by coach Zdovc. Somebody is going to get yelled at, I guarantee it. Aus closes the gap to 9 points 5 minutes into the second period. And Blazic gets the loose ball but the shot doesn't fall. Baynes has 10 points after an offensive rebound. Balazic from deep stops the bleeding, but defense is all over the place, but things are looking up. Another drive forces a t-o from the Australian coach. And Goran hits a three off the backboard, he has 12 points so far. Dragic brothers lead a great transition attack, but Zoran misses at the rim. Goran hits another step-back three over Baynes, he's got 15. But Australians are also sharp from deep, keeping the game at +8 for Slo.
And Baynes gets a bit fiesty, pushes Balazic off with an elbow after the whistle and gets an unsportsmanlike foul and he's still steaming. And Baynes is pissed, gets an and-one again. Well, it's not like any our guys can guard him one-on-one. Slovenians are unfocused on D with a minute left and Aussies make it a 6-point game. And the crowd is chanting after a great p'n'r. At the break it's 49:43, Australia closed the gap with some great team plays and the Slovenians slipping on D. Gogi has 15 ppoints so far so here's hoping he goes off for 30!
Australians are getting the ball down low, getting an and-one immediately and it's a 3 point game. Gogi makes a great pass for a dunk by Omic but he's still to soft on Baynes on D. Gogi gets called for his second foul, on offense as well and Australia is right back in it at 51:50. It's run and gun basketball at the start of the second half, lots of running, the gunning is lacking so far. Btw, Gogi has 3 fouls already. And the game slows right down again after he steps out. But Slovenians are tuning into the game, looking sharper on defense, also some good plays on the other end and the lead is 57:50 some 4 minutes into the third forcing another time out by the Aussies. Keep it up boyos.
We're having trouble getting an open shot but at least we're finally getting some calls and making the free throws. And Omic is really looking good, passing to an open man but in the next possession we miss another lay-up. Focus, dudes! It's 62:54 with 3 minutes left in the third. But Jaka Klobucar is really playing well with Gogi on the bench, driving right to the rim. And Zoran makes a nifty 360 lay-up, to make it a 10 point game with a minute left and a block on the other end. And Zoran goes all Gogi on Baynes with a great lay up to make the score after third a sexy 69:60.
Good lay-up to start the fourth and Omic forces a travelling call on defense, he's really impressing me, though his hook shot is not a thing of beauty at all. Goran checks into the game with some 8 minutes left and lays up a beauty in his first drive. Zoran makes a deep three to push the lead to 14 with 7 minutes left in the fourth. And Goran gets his fourth foul but finishes at the rim on the other end. And the Aussies are starting to play a bit dirty, getting our youngsters worked-up, we are relentless going for the loose ball, Edo Muric pulled down a ball with an Aussie still attached to it.
With 5 minutes left, our D is working well but again our offense is slowing down with Goran sitting on the bench. And we've got 5 fouls to Australian's two. Nevertheless, we're still up by 13 with 4 minutes left in the game and Goran checks back in as it's obvious we're a class lower without him most of the time. Some good ball movement from our guys and a cold-blooded three from Domen Lorbek push the score to 81-67. The Australians are getting a bit nervous, trying to push the tempo, shooting the first chance they get, but so far it's not working and SLovenians are showing great composure, slowing the game right down. Baynes gets a strong dunk but lands awkwardly, let's hope it's just a sprained muscle.
But the Australians aren't letting up, they steal back-to-back balls, making it a 7-point game with under a minute left. And Goran draws a foul with a triple-team. Dome Lorbek gets a hand to the face but he stays cool and makes both free throws to make it 85:76. But Australians make a three from way behind the line, keeping it close. And here's a great shot of Gogi leading the team, shouting at his players. But a good defensive effort and nice ball movement bring the game to a close, the final score is 90:80. And the cheering you're hearing is "Kdor ne ska?e, ni Slovenc", meaning he who doesn't jump is not a Slovenian, an apt cheer as we actually grabbed more rebounds than the big Australians. And that's the only way we can hope for a good result, if everyone is giving it 100% all the time.
Goran had 21 points and would get even more if he didn't get into foul trouble early, but he was a confident leader, making clutch shots, good plays under the rim, a few great assists and generally being the best man on the court.
As you're used to, there will be a follow-up article by kajkejti with all the quotes and detailed stats and box-scores.
I'm off to get a beer.