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Istanbul, Turkey home of the Finals. Serbia vs Slovenia the competitors. Former Dubs, Anthony Randolph & Ognjen Kuzmic playing sixth-man and starting Center for their respective countries. A retelling of the game through my eyes, wanted to make my own contribution to #BasketballWithoutBorders

Serbia Roster (Starting 5):

⭐#6 Milan Macvan (F), ⭐#7 Bogdan Bogdanovic (G), ⭐#11 Vladimir Lucic (F), ⭐#24 Stefan Jovic (G), ⭐#32 Ognjen Kuzmic (C)

Bench:

#12 Oragan Milosavljevic, #14 Stefan Bircevic, #15 Vladimir Stimac, #19 Branko Lazic, #22 Marko Guduric, #51 Boban Marjanovic.

Slovenia Roster (Starting 5):

⭐#3 Goran Dragic (G), ⭐#8 Edo Muric (F), ⭐#11 Jaka Blazic (G), ⭐#14 Gasper Vidmar (C), ⭐#77 Luka Doncic (18 years old, Guard)

Bench:

#0 Anthony Randolph (Naturalized Citizen), #1 Matic Rebec, #6 Aleksej Nikolic, #7 Klemen Prepelic, #17 Sasa Zagovac, #22 Ziga Dimec, #31 Vlatko Cancar.

National Anthems play, then the crowd got amped up holding a go get ’em attitude, complete with who’s, ha’s, whistles and idle banter.

The tip:

“Kuz” as we call him in Santa Cruz scores 1st, hitting a nice little baby hook. Dragic penetrates-and-dishes to Muric for a short-porch-3 on the left wing. Full court press gets stopped by Slovenia and after a repost effort, Doncic went up and all you heard was the sound of the basketball slapping a pair of hands. The main reason I’m watching this game then brought the ball up-court and dazzled with a cross-over Steph Curry range left-wing-3 that front rimmed out.

Kuzmic swaps away a put-back attempt off Vidmar and we’re going the other way. “That first shot by Doncic, that was in, uh, the next time zone.” – announcer. A dive cut by Muric and a whip pass by Dragic, led to Muric shoveling it up and in with english high off the backboard. It drew both a fist pump and a roar from the crowd. Turns out the back-story on Muric is this was his first start of the Tournament.

High-low and the biggest man on the court Kuzmic was found wide open for an easy bucket, making the score 5-4 Slovenia. Doncic catching the rock on the left wing, a rocker step and a step back later he throws a patient up-fake from 7′. Seeing a little space he fades away and swishes the baseline jumper.

Kuzmic working that screen and roll game again gets a little space, switching hands and finishing with the left. After a phantom foul on Kuz, Boban Marjanovic checked in and made his presence known patrolling the rare air 3′ from the basket, knocking down an incoming assult. Then on the other end Boban marched right in and a 🐻-hug couldn’t even stop him. From the crowd reaction I was fondly reminded, “Everybody 💓’s Boban.”

With 5:47 remaining in the first, former Dub Anthony Randolph checks in and comes up with a rejection on Boban. Unfortunately it was called a shooting foul, he got all ball, then came down on the wrist. 🏫-yard, play on.. organized hoops a foul call, most of the time. After Boban shoots his FT’s Randolph and company come down court with some bounce in their step. After a series of dribble-handoffs, Dragic gets a little high screen-roll-game with a teammate set for him to go right and expediently took a two-dribble stop-on-a-dime pull up jumper with a defender draped over him, from just inside the elbow, cash 💰. The ball hit the bottom-back-iron and sunk in through the net. The shot must have short circuited my feed because my screen went back and all I got was audio of a Serbian basket. The picture shows back up and Goran Dragic is euro-stepping through the defense of Marjanovic and lays it in swiftly for two.

Bogdanovic answered-back with a highly questionable block-charge-no-call jump shot that goes down. Bogdan is so gritty I love his game, write it down, he’s gonna be a problem in Sacramento for the Warriors this year. Doncic takes two screens going right, probes and steps-back, giving an up-fake that gets Boban off his feet, steps through sinking the push shot from 8′.

“Back-and-forth we go” the announcer states as they show a glimpse of coach Alexsandar Djordenic’s arms extended, putting his palms up and raising them. Maybe a sign to increase pressure or tempo, or simply the next play call. In any case, there’s a pin-up screen set for Boban to get a straight run towards the hoop. The ball is delivered, he catches goes up and is hacked from behind. Sank ’em both.

After some beautiful basketball, both ways with no scoring to come from it, Bogdanovic saw a seam in the defense and attacked the basket. The righty lay-in on three defenders drew a quick timeout call from Slovenia. With the crowd going crazy, a Slovenian player grabs his teammates attention with the sign of splash and grunts, “Hey,hey we’re going to make shots.” The Serbian coach gets everyone together with a wave of the hand and makes quick work out of the clipboard. For the record it looked as though he called pin-down screens & streaks on both sides of the court.

With a chance to line-up his shot from five fathoms deep (30′), Prepelic turned-on the depth-finder and 💦-💲-Records just went solid gold. Ms. Green, if I may.. @Money23Green

After a couple of Serbian FT’s Slovenia ran a couple dribble-handoffs and found Prepelic flying backdoor for a flowing basket. Marjanovic’s temper flares just a little bit and I have to say, he must not have appreciated the 🐻-hug earlier. Once, twice, three times a lady, a point blank basket finally goes down for Slovenia. Lucic comes up with a stuff and his full court pass was just barely deflected out-of-bounds.

After a launchpad miss by Marjanovic, Dragic pulls the rebound and scores coast to coast in what felt like 3 seconds. “The Blurr” Borbosa would have been proud, actually he was…

With former Dub Leandro Barbosa stating, “My bro @Goran_Dragic is playing so well the whole tournament. #TheDragon”

…And I know Jason Kidd used to lead the league going end-to-end in 5 seconds on average.

A catch-and-shoot situation with 0.6 seconds left by Dragic went long and though I had a feeling it was going in, that was in fact the end of the first quarter. The count Serbia 22, Slovenia 20.

First Quarter Stats:

Slovenia) 7/13 for 54% on 2-pointers, 2/8 for 25% on 3-pointers and zero FT’s.

Serbia) 8/15 for 53% on 2-pointers, 0/2 on 3’s and 6/6 100% on FT’s.

The first real action of the 2nd Quarter was Anthony Randolph getting jumped into while pulling a three. The raucous crowd enjoyed all three made FT’s. Immediately following the inbounds pass Randolph stepped through the passing lane, ball in hand and gave a gorgeous shovel-pass over to Dragic who was still hanging out in the key, for a catch-no-drbble lay-in. Timeout was called by Serbia and the literal drums of battle started banging away. A player takes an old-fashioned under-hooks back-crack-stretch as coach Djordjevic fights for the attention of his team. If you’ve ever worked in the trades, you know both how effective that is at loosening up the back and just how darn good it feels. -Note to Chelsea Lane… P.S. That’s the extent of my Monopoly sports medicine degree.

A full court press is broke just before the eight second call and Serbia goes to the post extended. A dribble-handoff ensues and the guards go one-on-one. Macvan with the ball crosses over three times in rapid succession and after taking one more dribble left pulls up and knocks it down from deep. Randolph swings into a foot-on-the-line-3 and let’s fly. The shot goes down and what I’m going to call the “Sea of Green” out there supporting Slovenia’s arms go up in unison, (not knowing it wasn’t a three).  Someone was holding a huge trophy up in the air as well, “what will they think of next.”

Inside-out and Bircevic is on the mark from distance. A woman sitting in the front row got an enthusiastic kiss on the cheek from her date, after Prepelic showed back up to the party and rattled home a three.

“Coast-to-Coast, Luka Donic!” The announcer and let me tell you one thing, #Roaracle woulda been rockin’, the fans in Istanbul most certainly were. Poster on Boban! Timeout. “Tell ’em to watch that highlight.” Istanbul-was-Constantinople. It was the best Coast-to-Coast call I’ve heard in ages, and in case you read this, I’ve got your back Mr. Announcer.

A Goran “Jimmy Jackson” (what I call a jump shot sometimes) goes in. A foul and an MVP-Chant from the Sea of Green for Dragic at the line. Dragic was out there trying to do his best Luka Doncic impersonation, but was cut down at the peak of his jump, a scary moment yes, but The 🐉 popped back up and netted his FT’s. If this was a charity event, Dragic would have been named man of the hour, making two more from the stripe.

And-1 courtesy of Lucic plus the made FT. Guduric from the corner, bang, and timeout for Slovenia. Oh my word… I’m being fecicious… a flop called a Technical Foul. My 💓 skipped a beat. The NBA itself still needs this call. Prepelic makes the T.

Doncic sky’s for his 5th rebound and gets dropped. Splish, splash (yes, I invented the saying) the FT’s net with 3:00 left in the half. Dragic with a strong cross-over take to the right and score. Guduric hits an answer-back three. Dragic goes primal after his own counter-of-the-counter-3 hits it mark. The Sea of Green beaming is really showing their appreciation. Twenty-one points for 🐉 now. Dragic gritts his teeth and you can see the smoke billowing from his mouth after stepping behind a top-of-key-screen and twine tickling. “Is a man possessed.” The announcer. There’s a chant from the entire crowd that BOOMS through the Arena at the next break. “The Dragon,” let me finish that for you Mr. Announcer… Went En Fuego 🔥… Cross-Over, goes left, a behind the back dribble quick pull elbow jumper, scorched the netting. Bogdanovic proving his metal, with sword and shield gets a tough one in the lane to go down and that’s pretty much the half.

Halftime:

Slovenia 56, Serbia 47

Stats at the half:

Slovenia) 13/22 for 59% on 2-pointers, 6/14 for 43% on 3-pointers, 12/12 keeping it 💯 on FT’s, (4/12)-16 RebsO/D, 9 Assists, 2 Steals, 2 Blocks, 2 Turnovers, 11 Fouls.

Serbia) 12/20 for 60% on 2-pointers, 4/13 for 31% on 3-pointers, 11/11 keeping it 💯 on FT’s, (5/11)-16 Rebs, 9 Assists, 2 Steals, 3 Blocks, 5 Turnovers, 14 Fouls.

Sideline-out-of-bounds for Serbia to start the second half & Slovenia’s coach has noticably turned up the dial on the on-ball-defense a notch or three. A half-courtish entry pass to Marjanovic only leaves them with an 8′ airball to show. Drive, kick & swing from Randolph to Dragic who got the three and now has 29 points. The hockey-assist going to Blazic. A two-dribble lull-you-to-sleep step in jumper for Bogdanovic gets Serbia on the board, two possessions into the quarter.
Blazic playing patiently crosses-over behind a screen-roll by Vidmar, he up-faked looking for a hole to find his teammate and just like that Gasper cuts, catches and gathers for a MONSTER one-handed-jam And-1. The lights in the eyes of the Slovenian’s were definitely turned on, as they’re collectively starting to make Serbia feel it at this point.

Lucic cuts back-door for a deuce and a traveling call which nullified a dunk on the other end helped they’re cause even more. Marjanovic softly pushes a jump-shot from just a step inside the FT line which hits back-iron bounces way up and gently nestles back into the basket. Lucic then goes up for an offensive-rebound (O-Reb) and accidentally gets under-cut, landing hard on his left side. He holds his left wrist as he gets up and peers over to the bench. To his credit he stayed in and stayed active waving that hand around as if everything felt fine on defense.

After weaving around a screen Dragic pulled up and made a top-of-key-jumper. Backpedaling on defense and giving a quick peak at the scoreboard, Serbia was down 10. A quick take to the rack fixed that and Dragic looking around for a whistle airballed the three… Slithery. With Dragic getting pulled, Serbia seized the moment by attacking the basket, the reward, a couple FT’s. On the play Doncic was hurt. The video- Him rolling on the ground screaming in agony, cradling his left ankle way up high.. and that told me two things from experience, so I pressed pause and only inhaled.. ICE & RELAX, landed-on-the side-of-a-foot [The Worst] One: trainer. Two: He might very well be done for the night and the foreseable future. Getting a 💓’y helping ✋ up from a trainer and teammates they all helped him hop off the court. Tip of the cap young man, you played your tail off, I salute you. 👷👏

Bogdanovic took the leaders role into his hands and rolled to the basket scoring with a graceful right hand. Randolph rejection, four point game. Are you with me? Guduric almost does a back flip coming up with an extra possession for Serbia, what-a-feed. That gets pass of the night.. After staying team-first concious a high-screen-roll between Micic and Stimac ended with a wrap-around-bounce-pass (That only John Stockton and Steve Nash used to throw effectively) to a ready-to-drop-step Center.. that’s my kind of basketball. Timeout. Dragic gets animated. “Put your hands up,” repeatedly Dragic engaged before his country’s coach could get to the bench, “put your heads up,” he instructed. Meanwhile Serbia’s huddle is casual conversational. TBH, they might have had a hard time listening with Dragic under 94′ away.

Randolph showed 🐈-like-quickness on a catch-and-shoot baseline jumper. Randolph comes up with another block, after a second and third effort by Serbia underneath the basket. You see, this is why I’ve liked Goran since live-tweeting him during the 2014 World Cup for LetsGoWarriors.com. He’s a bull. The Dragon let out a roar and spread his wings like he was Hulk Hogan tearing off a t-shirt, forcing it in for two.

The “Pride” in her eyes. As Prevolic shot FT’s for Slovenia, a woman all in green with beautiful gleaming blue eyes clapped for him. A quick glance showed Doncic on the bench with his team and countrymen again with a towel draped over his head… (As we say back home) Go On Luka! Bogdanovic playing that high-screen-roll-game Serbia has incorporated so much this evening, drove and kicked out to Bircevic who had been willingly waiting at the right-corner three for spacing. Letting the hand hang and even giving the shot some shape with a wafting wave hello it flew from his fingertips and rattled home. A very important three pointer.

Bogdanovic stepped into one from long range, gave his opponent a single simple pump fake and let’s fly… Nothing but nylon. Dragic almost loses the ball behind the half-court line fiddling around with a speed-dribble, appropriately recouperates, takes it straight to the rack and picks up a couple of FT’s with 0.6 tics left in the third. Splish, splash end of the third quarter Slovenia 71, Serbia 67.

Statistics:

Slovenia) 17/29 for 59% on 2-pointers, 7/21 for 33% on 3-pointers, 16/17 for 94% on FT’s.

Serbia) 18/36 for 50% on 2-pointers, 6/17 for 35% on 3-pointers, 13/13 keeping it 💯 on FT’s.

After a frantic start to the 4th quarter Nikolic came up with an on ball steal. In the process he was grabbed by the shoulder blade and made two FT’s also keeping possession,for it was called unsportsmanlike. During the extra-possession Slovenian Blacic went one-on-one and took it left to the basket, finishing with his left hand, making the most out of it. The Sea of Green went wild, their country going up eight, it was understandable (Ireland, please read this).

An answer-back-3 by Serbia wasn’t enough to keep Blazic from jump shot retribution. Bogdanovic euro-stepped and finished with good form of the left on a take to the hole. Rebec follows suit. Micic takes a dive and gets T’d up. A combination of airballs and poor execution, leads to a wide open layup for Lucic, one point game, Timeout Serbia. “You’ve got to keep your witts about you, no matter the situation.”

A sophisticated play call from Serbia and Bogdanovic takes a seat. Lucic soars and finally garner’s possession for his squad, getting fouled. Five down (The Play) and a post hook from Macvan & Serbia takes the lead. Slovenia gets it right to their hot hand Prepelic and he says (Trust) I got you, making it rain in Istanbul. Macvan reposts and baseline spins then adding a fadeaway to the combination-move, swishes. A double-dribble by Dragic who’s been having issues cramping up and he checks out. Brand-New-Ballgame, 3:44. Bogdanovic scores with some muscle-up mayhem. Randolph ties it back up with free-thows. Kuzmic gets it poked away from him, and Serbia steals it right back. Tense, tense fourth quarter, Kuzmic to the line for a couple of pressure-packed-FT’s… Missed ’em both. It’s Prepelic’s night, Jordan-forearm-step-back-jumper, like butter baby. Timeout. Solemn in both huddle’s, even the crowd hasn’t moved an inch.

On an errant shot the ball goes out-of-bounds off a Serbian, but they retain possession (tough job ref). Macvan long and strong on the three. Anthony Randolph gets the pill, gives a rocker-step and takes it straight for a jam-packed lane.. with his left ✋ he delivers a runner, the whistle blows, foul called and the ball may not have even touched the net it was so clean, AND-1! 1:38 left, Slovenia up 4, FT for Anthony, off. Bogdanovic tries to take Vidmar one-on-one and Gasper sent him packing. With a ✊ pump in celebration, Dragic walked the ball up court. Prepelic takes a step back three and is fouled, this could be it. Timeout. Both teams #LockedIn.

Hands clasped together like a vice-grip from the Sea of Green and Prepelic goes two for three. Anthony Randolph dribbles across the half-court line and hands it off. He got the ball back at the elbow and pulled the old school “Show & Go,” attempting to drive the nail-in-the-coffin with his most powerful slam. No foul was called and one of the announcers shouts “Oh my God.” After a whistle, Randolph is all smiles walking talking with the ref, as if to say, “What else can I do.” The announcer points out that he almost had his head taken off, which was fact and with a pair of FT’s it’s academic.

The Sea of Green shows their bounce, their charismatic celebration was memorable. Macvan banks home a three-point-play and Serbia cuts it to 7 with 18.9 small moments left. The clock winds down and Slovenia are officially the Champs of EuroBasket 2017, the first in their history. Dragic jumps into Blasic’s arms like he just won the 🥊 title-belt and both teams exchange handshakes and hugs.

Final:

Slovenia 93, Serbia 85

Final Stats:

Slovenia) 21/37 for 57% on 2-pointers, 8/26 for 31% on 3-pointers, 27/32 for 84% on FT’s, (11/25) for 36 Rebounds[O&D], 14 Assists, 6 Steals, 7 Blocks, 9 Turnovers, 20 Fouls.

Serbia) 25/44 for 53% on 2-pointers, 8/25 for 32% on 3-pointers, 13/15 for 87% on FT’s, 16 Assists, 5 Steals, 4 Blocks, 9 Turnovers, 28 Fouls.

Game Leaders:

Slovenia)

Scoring leaders: Dragic 35 points, Prepelic 21, Randolph 11.

Doncic 7 Rebounds, Prepelic 3 Assists, Dragic 2 Steals, Vidmar 3 Blocks, Dragic 3 Turnovers.

Serbia)

Top scorers: Bogdanovic 22 points, Macvan 18 Lucic 9.

Lucic 9 Rebounds, Bogdanovic 5 Assists, Marjanovic 1 Steal, Kuzmic 2 Blocks, Marjanovic 2 Turnovers.

The scene ends for me when Doncic jumps on Dragic’s back for a 🐖-back ride and joins the celebration with his country.. on the court.