Greece put on a show how to beat a team that's relying on one player to carry it, even if that player is The Dragon himself.

Today, The Dragon brothers will start the game, I guess Zdovc knows Greece is much better than New Zealand and his plan is pushing the tempo from the start. Oh and a small organisational blunder, while listening to the Greek national anthem, all we could see was Slovenia.

First period

The starting five for Slovenia, as mentioned, includes Goran Dragic, so we're looking forward to an energetic start of the game. Plus, the team had a purely shooting practice today, let's see if it helps. First attack goes to SLO thanks to Zoki, who else. Our game looks better, lots more passes, faster ball movement and help defense is working well which is necessary as SLO is weak in the paint. And Goran has his first two points with a wide open shot from the elbow although he missed his first 3-PT attempt and Greece answers with a 3 of their own and the score 2 minutes in is +3 for Greece at 4:7 as Zdovc calls a time-out.

It obviously worked, some good D but we're still missing on wide open shots, Gogi included, how often do you see him missing two step-back from the paint in one night? He's attacking the paint very well and setting up open shots, but the rest of the team wouldn't hit sand if they fell off a camel (so far). Goran taking control again and finishing at the rim with an eurostep, but he won't be able to do everything himself, especially as he's being guarded like a criminal. 6 minutes in it's +9 for Greece (6:15). A minute later it's +12, after some great ball movement by Greece.

Yaay, some life at last, though we still can't finish at the rim. Where's PJ when you need one... Also Giannis Antetokounmpo makes his first appearance with great dunk after an alley-op. End of first, it's 12:25 for Greece, and SLO is 0/6 from downtown, while GRE is 3/3.

Second period

Some life on defense from the Slovenians, but shots still aren't falling in half-court sets and there's no transition offense, our best weapon. Full-court pressing yielded a mistake by the Antetokounmpo, the NBA first+step is a travelling turnover in Europe. But still, we can't hit a shot or grab a rebound. Here's hoping Gogi can make a difference. 4 minutes in Slovenia is still down by 13 and has no solution against the physical Greeks. First proper transition attack and it's an and-one situation. Hint, hint!

When Goran slashes to the rim, the whole defense collapses on him, enabling a kick to the corner for a 4 point play by our resident Beatle, Klobucar. Down by 9 with 5 minutes left. Some good D again but nothing on O again, Greece is running us out of the gym, basically. Great way to fix it, give the ball to Goran, he runs the floor and finishes through contact. Defense is looking up but 8 minutes in, Slovenia is still down by 8 afret a 3-pt made by Dragon jr., who picks up his first foul. And Gogi misses a wide open three, a really ugly shot, reminiscent of a sophomore NBA Goran. But he makes up for it in the next attack by attacking the switch and finishing at the rim. At the half, it's 30:38, Slovenia shooting 35% from the field while Greece 61%. The most glaring is our 3PT percentage, 2 for 12and Goran has 8 points so far.

Third period

The Dragon brothers start again, but Gogi picks up his first foul. And Slovenians are even mucking about when they get out in transition, not pushing hard to the rim, but we just hit our third 3-point shot! Followed by a great attack by Gogi, finishing through contact over a center. Following a counter-attack finished by Zoran, the score is only +3 for Greece, 37:40, 3 minutes into the second half, forcing a time-out by the Greek coach.

After a fumbled assist, Gogi picks up his second foul and misses another step-back. I'm blaming the wind or the climate, or something. But Zoki is picking up the slack, finishing through contact but then throwing a brick from the 3-point line. A shot by Muric bounces out from inside of the rim and then the Greek center hits a three, whatever man. 6 minutes in it's 42:50, let's hope a time-out helps. Not really, Greece is playing textbook basketball, passing the ball and finding the open man. Slovenia is still mostly just throwing bricks and is down by 12 a minute before the end of third period after a dunk by a Greek player. At the end of third it's 49:59, after a thoroughly uninspired 3 quarters by Slovenia and Spurs-like passing by Greece. Goran is our best player with 10 points.

Fourth period

Goran is still throwing bricks form downtown and our half-court sets look like something from primary school basketball. Greece is flying around the court, hitting everything and the occasional made shot will not be enough to stop the bleeding. 3 minutes in it's 52:66, no real idea on offense, but there's some life on D. After two good shots it's a 9-point game and a time-out to stop the (itty-bitty) momentum by Slovenia.

Zoran makes a great pass to Omic for a dunk after a missed shot by Greece, but it's not enough. Goran is trying to carry the team, forcing a foul in the paint and hitting both free throws and then hist first step-back for his 14th point and it's a 7-point game, but Greece is still running rings around our inside players, most of them look like guards standing next to Greece's bigs. And Antetokounmpo is getting some star treatment, go figure, but his handles leave a lot to be desired.

Again Zoran finishes through contact in transition and hits the free throw, making this a 4-point game, with 1:30 minutes left.  But a wide open long two pushes it back to 6 points. There's hope, but not much as Goran forces a foul and Slovenia misses another wide-open three. You can't write this (welp, I guess you can) as Greece gets an offensive rebound and two points.

Summary

Final score is 71:79, and I'm angry, there was maybe 10 minutes-worth of good basketball on the part of Slovenians while Greece was playing sound fundamental basketball, passing the ball, finding the open man and generally out-playing their opponents. Goran had 14 points (if the stats are correct) and Zoran had 12, but it will take a lot more than that to beat Lithuania tomorrow, especially as Gogi will not be playing.

Stay tuned for the next article with the exact stats and some quotes from the main players.

Greece put on a show how to beat a team that's relying on one player to carry it, even if that player is The Dragon himself.

Today, The Dragon brothers will start the game, I guess Zdovc knows Greece is much better than New Zealand and his plan is pushing the tempo from the start. Oh and a small organisational blunder, while listening to the Greek national anthem, all we could see was Slovenia.

First period

The starting five for Slovenia, as mentioned, includes Goran Dragic, so we're looking forward to an energetic start of the game. Plus, the team had a purely shooting practice today, let's see if it helps. First attack goes to SLO thanks to Zoki, who else. Our game looks better, lots more passes, faster ball movement and help defense is working well which is necessary as SLO is weak in the paint. And Goran has his first two points with a wide open shot from the elbow although he missed his first 3-PT attempt and Greece answers with a 3 of their own and the score 2 minutes in is +3 for Greece at 4:7 as Zdovc calls a time-out.

It obviously worked, some good D but we're still missing on wide open shots, Gogi included, how often do you see him missing two step-back from the paint in one night? He's attacking the paint very well and setting up open shots, but the rest of the team wouldn't hit sand if they fell off a camel (so far). Goran taking control again and finishing at the rim with an eurostep, but he won't be able to do everything himself, especially as he's being guarded like a criminal. 6 minutes in it's +9 for Greece (6:15). A minute later it's +12, after some great ball movement by Greece.

Yaay, some life at last, though we still can't finish at the rim. Where's PJ when you need one... Also Giannis Antetokounmpo makes his first appearance with great dunk after an alley-op. End of first, it's 12:25 for Greece, and SLO is 0/6 from downtown, while GRE is 3/3.

Second period

Some life on defense from the Slovenians, but shots still aren't falling in half-court sets and there's no transition offense, our best weapon. Full-court pressing yielded a mistake by the Antetokounmpo, the NBA first+step is a travelling turnover in Europe. But still, we can't hit a shot or grab a rebound. Here's hoping Gogi can make a difference. 4 minutes in Slovenia is still down by 13 and has no solution against the physical Greeks. First proper transition attack and it's an and-one situation. Hint, hint!

When Goran slashes to the rim, the whole defense collapses on him, enabling a kick to the corner for a 4 point play by our resident Beatle, Klobucar. Down by 9 with 5 minutes left. Some good D again but nothing on O again, Greece is running us out of the gym, basically. Great way to fix it, give the ball to Goran, he runs the floor and finishes through contact. Defense is looking up but 8 minutes in, Slovenia is still down by 8 afret a 3-pt made by Dragon jr., who picks up his first foul. And Gogi misses a wide open three, a really ugly shot, reminiscent of a sophomore NBA Goran. But he makes up for it in the next attack by attacking the switch and finishing at the rim. At the half, it's 30:38, Slovenia shooting 35% from the field while Greece 61%. The most glaring is our 3PT percentage, 2 for 12and Goran has 8 points so far.

Third period

The Dragon brothers start again, but Gogi picks up his first foul. And Slovenians are even mucking about when they get out in transition, not pushing hard to the rim, but we just hit our third 3-point shot! Followed by a great attack by Gogi, finishing through contact over a center. Following a counter-attack finished by Zoran, the score is only +3 for Greece, 37:40, 3 minutes into the second half, forcing a time-out by the Greek coach.

After a fumbled assist, Gogi picks up his second foul and misses another step-back. I'm blaming the wind or the climate, or something. But Zoki is picking up the slack, finishing through contact but then throwing a brick from the 3-point line. A shot by Muric bounces out from inside of the rim and then the Greek center hits a three, whatever man. 6 minutes in it's 42:50, let's hope a time-out helps. Not really, Greece is playing textbook basketball, passing the ball and finding the open man. Slovenia is still mostly just throwing bricks and is down by 12 a minute before the end of third period after a dunk by a Greek player. At the end of third it's 49:59, after a thoroughly uninspired 3 quarters by Slovenia and Spurs-like passing by Greece. Goran is our best player with 10 points.

Fourth period

Goran is still throwing bricks form downtown and our half-court sets look like something from primary school basketball. Greece is flying around the court, hitting everything and the occasional made shot will not be enough to stop the bleeding. 3 minutes in it's 52:66, no real idea on offense, but there's some life on D. After two good shots it's a 9-point game and a time-out to stop the (itty-bitty) momentum by Slovenia.

Zoran makes a great pass to Omic for a dunk after a missed shot by Greece, but it's not enough. Goran is trying to carry the team, forcing a foul in the paint and hitting both free throws and then hist first step-back for his 14th point and it's a 7-point game, but Greece is still running rings around our inside players, most of them look like guards standing next to Greece's bigs. And Antetokounmpo is getting some star treatment, go figure, but his handles leave a lot to be desired.

Again Zoran finishes through contact in transition and hits the free throw, making this a 4-point game, with 1:30 minutes left.  But a wide open long two pushes it back to 6 points. There's hope, but not much as Goran forces a foul and Slovenia misses another wide-open three. You can't write this (welp, I guess you can) as Greece gets an offensive rebound and two points.

Summary

Final score is 71:79, and I'm angry, there was maybe 10 minutes-worth of good basketball on the part of Slovenians while Greece was playing sound fundamental basketball, passing the ball, finding the open man and generally out-playing their opponents. Goran had 14 points (if the stats are correct) and Zoran had 12, but it will take a lot more than that to beat Lithuania tomorrow, especially as Gogi will not be playing.

Stay tuned for the next article with the exact stats and some quotes from the main players.

Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic came off the bench and scored 18 points to help the Slovenian national team defeat New Zealand 80-74 in an exhibition game on Saturday. New Zealand’s game...

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Goran Dragi? comes through in his first game back since April 14th. With 18 points and 8 assists he led Slovenia to victory.

Finally, after 4 long months, Goran Dragic played a game. For reasons I can't quite get behind he was not a starter, instead coming off the bench with 2 minutes left in the 1st.

You could see the intensity and tempo pick up the second the Dragi? brothers stepped on the floor. Although Goran started playing confidently enough, he ended up missing his first step back jumper completely. Made up for it with a typical Dragon drive to the basket on the next and final possession of the first quarter. He went on to miss about 3 or 4 more shots, including an open 3. I think he realized he was forcing it too much and started handing out assists instead. Could have had more than 8; a few led to free throws for teammates and some were just badly handled by teammates. Either way you could see he was getting more comfortable. He really came back breathing fire in the 4th, scoring 14 points in his last 8 minutes and bringing back that feeling of "there's no way Goran Dragi? is letting us lose".

He finished with 18pt (7/16), 8as, 3re, 1st, 2/2 ft (14 pt in the 4th) in roughly 25 minutes of playing time.

Brother Zoran Dragic was very active too, throwing himself all over the floor while going after the ball. He finished with 13 points and 4 steals. He could have had 15, had he not missed that last layup so badly, even Goran was in disbelief. His response in the form of raising his hands in a gesture clearly saying "How did you manage to miss that?" to his brother made me laugh so hard I got over the miss quickly.

In case you missed it Jogi wrote a great recap of the game and you can find the full Slovenia vs. New Zealand statistics here.

Statements after the game:

Goran Dragi?: "New Zealand is aways an unfavourable opponent. As history shows - all our matches have been very close. We started badly, in a cramp, nevertheless in the end we focused and with good defense got the win. For me it was the first game since April 14th. Have to admit, I was kind of nervous. I told my brother Zoran I'm feeling "butterflies" in my stomach. But the main thing is we won. Surely we can play much better, in the upcoming games I will be getting in better form, so I can't wait for the new challenges. Sunday's game against Greece will definitely be a real test. Greeks are a strong team, that will want to pay us back for that last big loss in Stožice (Ljubljana)."

Coach Zdovc: "The team was tired, since we had an intense practice yesterday and at the same time the opponent was unfavourable. They have good shooters in all positions, which we could see particularly in the first half. For this part of the preparation period this was the type of game we needed. It will be like this at the World Cup: competition you have to overcome and not underestimate. In the first half we were too anaemic. There was no real communication between players, no firmness on defense and our offense was in a cramp. In the second half, we partially fixed these things, but I still can't be happy with the whole picture, since some player weren't playing at their levels. Goran Dragi?, who was playing his first game in a long time, was great. I wasn't expecting him to play as he did. In key moments he took it upon himself and decided the game. However he will not be able to beat all the opponents alone. He needs his teammates, today sadly he did not have enough of them."

BONUS INFO: In case anyone is interested in how coach Zdovc feels about the Suns limitations, here's a translated quote from delo.si: "I'm bothered by the Americans demands, they undermine the authority of the coach, which to me is unacceptable. But slowly we got to our original proposal of Goran playing more games with less minutes (per game). At first Phoenix insisted he play in only three. After Goran called them, they agreed to 5, if he plays a little less minutes. Looks like they had to have the last word" - apparently smiling while explaining.

Goran Dragi? comes through in his first game back since April 14th. With 18 points and 8 assists he led Slovenia to victory.

Finally, after 4 long months, Goran Dragic played a game. For reasons I can't quite get behind he was not a starter, instead coming off the bench with 2 minutes left in the 1st.

You could see the intensity and tempo pick up the second the Dragi? brothers stepped on the floor. Although Goran started playing confidently enough, he ended up missing his first step back jumper completely. Made up for it with a typical Dragon drive to the basket on the next and final possession of the first quarter. He went on to miss about 3 or 4 more shots, including an open 3. I think he realized he was forcing it too much and started handing out assists instead. Could have had more than 8; a few led to free throws for teammates and some were just badly handled by teammates. Either way you could see he was getting more comfortable. He really came back breathing fire in the 4th, scoring 14 points in his last 8 minutes and bringing back that feeling of "there's no way Goran Dragi? is letting us lose".

He finished with 18pt (7/16), 8as, 3re, 1st, 2/2 ft (14 pt in the 4th) in roughly 25 minutes of playing time.

Brother Zoran Dragic was very active too, throwing himself all over the floor while going after the ball. He finished with 13 points and 4 steals. He could have had 15, had he not missed that last layup so badly, even Goran was in disbelief. His response in the form of raising his hands in a gesture clearly saying "How did you manage to miss that?" to his brother made me laugh so hard I got over the miss quickly.

In case you missed it Jogi wrote a great recap of the game and you can find the full Slovenia vs. New Zealand statistics here.

Statements after the game:

Goran Dragi?: "New Zealand is aways an unfavourable opponent. As history shows - all our matches have been very close. We started badly, in a cramp, nevertheless in the end we focused and with good defense got the win. For me it was the first game since April 14th. Have to admit, I was kind of nervous. I told my brother Zoran I'm feeling "butterflies" in my stomach. But the main thing is we won. Surely we can play much better, in the upcoming games I will be getting in better form, so I can't wait for the new challenges. Sunday's game against Greece will definitely be a real test. Greeks are a strong team, that will want to pay us back for that last big loss in Stožice (Ljubljana)."

Coach Zdovc: "The team was tired, since we had an intense practice yesterday and at the same time the opponent was unfavourable. They have good shooters in all positions, which we could see particularly in the first half. For this part of the preparation period this was the type of game we needed. It will be like this at the World Cup: competition you have to overcome and not underestimate. In the first half we were too anaemic. There was no real communication between players, no firmness on defense and our offense was in a cramp. In the second half, we partially fixed these things, but I still can't be happy with the whole picture, since some player weren't playing at their levels. Goran Dragi?, who was playing his first game in a long time, was great. I wasn't expecting him to play as he did. In key moments he took it upon himself and decided the game. However he will not be able to beat all the opponents alone. He needs his teammates, today sadly he did not have enough of them."

BONUS INFO: In case anyone is interested in how coach Zdovc feels about the Suns limitations, here's a translated quote from delo.si: "I'm bothered by the Americans demands, they undermine the authority of the coach, which to me is unacceptable. But slowly we got to our original proposal of Goran playing more games with less minutes (per game). At first Phoenix insisted he play in only three. After Goran called them, they agreed to 5, if he plays a little less minutes. Looks like they had to have the last word" - apparently smiling while explaining.

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