Slovenia stay hot, edge Greece for second loss
EUROBASKET 2017 - GROUP A (GAME 3)
|Slovenia||78 - 72||Greece|
|(23 - 13)
(35 - 30)
(52 - 58)
(78 - 72)
Luka Doncic’s 22 points powered Slovenia to a 78-72 win over Greece in Group A play at Eurobasket 2017 on Sunday.
Fresh off a loss against France on Saturday, Greece were second-best yet again as the 2005 tournament winners now face an uphill climb to ensure qualification for the knockout round.
Kostas Sloukas was Greece’s highest scorer with 18 points, but the entire Greek offense was held to just 14 points in the final frame as Slovenia erased flipped the script on a six-point Greek lead.
Greece’s struggles to remain consistent through four quarters continued for a third consecutive game, while Kostas Papanikolaou’s problems were compounded as the Olympiacos forward was ejected for the second straight game.
Goran Dragic was the protagonist in Slovenia’s opening two wins against Poland and Finland, which prompted Greece to keep the Miami Heat guard in check throughout the first quarter. The extra attention paid to Dragic opened up the court for Doncic, who didn’t waste any opportunity in guiding Slovenia to an early lead in the opening frame.
Greece kept Slovenia’s lead under wraps early with Papanikolaou and Georgios Papagiannis combining well to trim the deficit to four following a floating alley-hoop; however, Slovenia would soon expose Greece’s double-coverage en route to a 10-point lead to wrap up the first quarter.
A refocused Greek effort did well to cut the Slovenian lead in the second quarter, as Greece’s bench players began to find their groove to eventually cut the Slovenian lead down to just two points.
While Greece struggled from beyond the arc, Slovenia’s shooting from three-point range was a threat all evening and a buzzer-beater from Doncic to cap the first half kept Greece at bay for a 35-30 Slovenian lead.
Kostas Missas’ team talk at half time certainly worked; if not for a short while. Kicking off the second half with a 9-0 run, Greece were sparked by strong shooting from Georgios Printezis, Nikos Calathes, Papagiannis, and Sloukas.
Greece’s defense was also effective in the third quarter. Building on their effort from the second frame, the Greek defensive effort limited Slovenia to 17 points in the quarter – giving Greece its first lead to end a quarter heading into the final frame.
Unlike in their contest against France where they scored 30 points, the fourth quarter wasn’t kind to Greece as Slovenia tightened their defensive play. On the other end, Dragic demonstrated his clutch shooting with 9 of his 20 points on the night coming in the final frame.
Overall, it took Slovenia six minutes to claw back level with Greece in the fourth quarter as Doncic’s dunk set up a tense final four minutes in Helsinki. Despite best efforts to re-energize the Greek offense late in the frame, Greece was forced to rely on trips to the foul line for its main product in the quarter as Slovenia refused to give up another lead.
The defeat means Greece are now 1-2 in the group, while Slovenia remain the only undefeated team in the section through three rounds of action. In Group A’s other fixtures on Monday, group hosts Finland narrowly edged Poland 90-87 while France used an explosive third quarter to thump Iceland 115-87.
Greece, who haven’t failed to qualify for the second group stage since the 1999 edition of the tournament, sit tied with Poland for fourth in the group with only points differential separating the sides.
Next up for Greece is a meeting with Finland on Tuesday, while Slovenia will face group minnows Iceland in a bid to stay unbeaten.