The game didn’t mean a whole lot, but that didn’t mean a whole lot to the Slovenians.
Despite playing in the consolation bracket after falling to Hedo Turkoglu and Turkey, Goran Dragic and Slovenia still gave Spain everything they had Friday, but fell short in an 97-80 loss. The Slovenians were playing for the chance to take home fifth place at the FIBA World Championship, but couldn’t hang onto a halftime lead.
Dragic had a big day, scoring 19 points (same as he did against Rubio and Spain last year in the EuroBasket tournament) to go with three steals, which is a good sign because Spain is a team with elite talent (though it hasn’t shown in this tournament). Dragic was face-to-face with Minnesota Timberwolves draft pick Ricky Rubio in this one. For the entire Slovenian team, this game ended up being simply a chance to play a group of very good players (as opposed to a team like New Zealand or Croatia).
The positive in this one was Dragic’s ability to score against a talented roster. He has done it before (think Spurs Game 3), but he has also struggled against talented teams like the U.S. and Turkey. Spain may not have brought its ‘A’ game to the FIBAs this year, but the Spaniards remain talented nonetheless.
However, Dragic was unusually off from deep, as The Dragon went 0-for-5 on three-pointers. No reason to panic, but another possible issue against a good team (though I’d once again refer back to Spurs Game 3: 5-for-5 from downtown). Dragic played 29 minutes in the game, second-most behind Jaka Lakovic, who played 33 minutes and scored 19 as well.
The Slovenians took a lead into halftime after outscoring the Spaniards 23-16 in the first quarter and getting outscored 22-18 in the second. Spain took control in the third quarter, going up 64-62 before playing the final period. Slovenia had nothing left in the fourth quarter and got dominated 33-18, essentially making the game look a lot worse than it actually was.
The strange thing, though, was that Spain’s so-called “stars” didn’t do a whole lot to send the Slovenians packing. Rubio only scored three points in 21 minutes — including two in late mop-up time — but did notch five assists. The Memphis Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol only totaled five points and five rebounds in 16 minutes on the floor.
It was Juan Carlos Navarro of FC Barcelona that led all scorers with 26 points and seven assists. Navarro scored 13 of his 26 in the third quarter.
While the Slovenians are now relegated to seventh place at best, there is a bright side to it all. For Slovenia, playing this well in the Wold Championships has been a step forward. And for Dragic, it was an opportunity to get serious playing time as a team leader. He showed throughout the tournament that he has the confidence and poise to run an offense and direct teammates without hesitation. Suns fans take note, as that is your point guard of the future (as if you didn’t already know that…).
Up next: The Slovenians look to take seventh place as they meet Russia on Saturday at 5 a.m. MST. The Russians are coming off a loss at the hands of Argentina after Team USA knocked them out of the medal round.