EuroBasket news: Goran Dragic leads Slovenia to undefeated run in group stage
Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic has led the way for his Slovenian national team in this year’s EuroBasket tournament, leading them to an undefeated 5-0 in group play after Wednesday’s 17-point win over France, who finished in second place in Group A.
The Dragon has scored 20 or more points in each game, averaging 24.4 through group play, making them the only team to sweep the table — with Spain having the chance to become the second after facing Hungary on Thursday.
The lefty veteran has drawn praise from his younger teammate, Luka Doncic, who is expected to be a top-three pick in next year’s NBA Draft.
“Goran is at a high level,” Doncic said after the game, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “He’s a true leader and we’re so happy to have him here, because he can do anything. He’s the captain and he’s the leader. We’ve learned so much stuff from him.”
Aside from the Heat’s floor general, the only other player with NBA experience is former journeyman Anthony Randolph, who is the lone naturalized citizen exception player allowed per FIBA rules.
Slovenia took on France with disregard for their place in FIBA rankings (the French are ranked fourth while the Slovenian are 12th overall), taking control from the start of the game and exploiting them from the outside in, proving to be the more effective and more balanced team in an otherwise chippy game that saw Frenchman Evan Fournier lose his temper after picking up his fifth and last foul.
“We’re growing as a team,” Slovenia coach Igor Kokoskov said. “As the tournament is going on, we’re playing better and better, more confident.”
The team took Dragic’s pace to heart, as the Heat point man paced the team with 22 points on 5-of-10 shooting and 10-of-11 from the stripe.
Slovenia, the first seed in Group A, will take on Ukraine on Saturday, Sept. 9 as their first opponent in the Round of 16 — looking to make it a memorable game, as the 31-year-old Dragic announced earlier this would be his last international competition.