Just because Slovenia has been knocked out of the medal round doesn’t mean we’re going to stop caring about them here at ValleyoftheSuns. You knew that, right?
From a Suns perspective, it would have been nice to see Goran Dragic come home with a medal, but really what we wanted to see was continued improvement on the international level. If Slovenia’s going well it probably means Dragic had something to do with it, but what we really care about is The Dragon taking on elite competition.
So while the best Slovenia can do is fifth at this point (which would be fantastic for them, by the way), Suns fans should think of Friday’s 8 a.m. MST game not as a letdown but instead an opportunity for Dragic to face another elite opponent in Ricky Rubio and Spain.
Spain dropped a 92-89 decision to Serbia in Wedesday’s quarterfinal matchup when Milos Teodosic drained a loooooooong three in the waning seconds of a masterpiece of a game.
Entering the tournament many thought Spain was the favorite to win the whole thing over even Team USA, despite missing superstar forward Pau Gasol, but they have been one of the bigger disappointments of the competition, falling to France and Lithuania in pool play before losing to the Serbs.
This is still a loaded Spanish roster that will provide a great test for Dragic and his country mates. They may be knocked out of the main tournament, but this is still a fantastic chance to get clutch reps against top-tier competition.
As I wrote in the previous recap, my biggest disappointment with Dragic is that he played two clunkers in Slovenia’s two toughest games (Team USA and Turkey). He averaged 6.0 points on 20 percent shooting in those two losses and 13.6 ppg on 55.8 percent shooting in Slovenia’s five wins. Slovenia needed Dragic to play better than usual against the best and instead he played much worse with their defenses focused squarely on him; therefore, it’s no surprise they didn’t have much of a shot against either the Americans or the Turks.
The Spain game represents a chance for Dragic to redeem himself against a team more talented on paper than Turkey and more cohesive than the Americans.
Dragic played his best game of EuroBasket 2009 against Rubio and the Spaniards, tallying 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting to go with three boards, an assist, SIX steals and a monster block of Rubio, who went for nine points, two boards and two assists as well as five turnovers (thanks to Dragon). Here are some highlights from that contest:
At the time it was almost a joke that the Suns’ crummy backup point guard was beasting on Rubio, but now with Dragon’s breakout year behind him and Rubio struggling a bit with his own offense it’s not out of the question to see these guys one day develop a nice little rivalry in the NBA.
In any case, Goran Dragic will be going up against NBA-caliber competition today, a proposition that has caused him to struggle throughout the tournament.
So while Slovenia’s hopes of winning the FIBA World Championship were blown away by Turkey on Wednesday, Friday’s consolation matchup against the Spaniards will still be an important game for the development of The Dragon.