For a week, Cologne (Germany) has eyes only for him. His number 77 with the Dallas Mavericks wins on the shoulders of fans – and not just those from his country – and when his name comes up, he gets the biggest ovation during the team presentation. Among the countless NBA stars who have come to play basketball at Euro 2022, Luka Doncic is a standout – along with Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Serbia’s Nikola Jokic. It was his team from Slovenia that the French basketball players faced in the final meeting of the group stage on Wednesday, September 7. At the end of a tough and disputed match, which was carried by the sparkling Luka Doncic, the reigning European champions won over the Blues (88-82).
With 47 points, the Slovenian leader scored probably the greatest offensive performance in the history of the competition. He was preceded by 63 points by Belgian Eddy Terrace in 1957 against Albania, but it is difficult to compare today’s basketball with the one where the Euros were played under the open sky back then. The Mavs player in a trance has led his team to first place in a very difficult Group D. The Blues will face Turkey in the round of 16 on Saturday in Berlin (12:00) for the third place.
“If a player scores 50 points, how do you want to win the game?asks French leader Thomas Heurtel. Of course it’s Luka Doncic, one of the best players in the world, but we have to change something. We ended up making it harder for him, but it was so easy for him in the beginning. »
“A complete lack of respect,” condemns Vincent Collet
However, the Blues made life difficult for the Balkan players. “We played our best game [de la compétition] », Vincent Collet noted. Usually a calm Olympian, the French coach did not get angry with the referee, according to him, he was as lenient with the Slovenians as he was strict with his soldiers. “Total lack of respect towards us. Tonight I think we were treated badly”the coach lamented, regrets that the referees have “prevented the players from deciding the match at the end of the game”. Since the beginning of the continental competition, if the level of play is very high, the referee sometimes has something to say, and the French coach is not the first to be moved.
In this rematch of the semi-finals of the last Olympics, where the French won thanks to a last-second counterattack from their captain Nicolas Batum, who has been absent this campaign, both teams were embarrassed.
Luka Doncic discovered Terry Tarpey. Unlike the NBA gratin all year, there was little chance the Slovenian maestro knew who the Le Mans winger was prior to the contest – neither did some of his Blues teammates. However, the constant defense of the French revelation of the tournament initially hindered Luka Doncic. And the Slovenians had to wait until the sixth minute of the match for their first basket, the French started seriously in defense and taking care of the ball in attack.
Partners “as spectators”
But they only saw the awakening of “Luka”, under the scream “MVP, MVP” public (for Most Valuable Player, ” best player “). By chaining great actions, Doncic multiplied and already collected 27 points at the break. “Luka is one of the best players in history. We are like spectators, privileged witnesses of something great. And we’re trying to help him.” recognized his teammate Jaku Blazič.
“Luka is a fantastic player, he can raise his level of play like almost no other player.” confirms French pivot Rudy Gobert. He had his night today, some of his shots were really hard and we have to congratulate him. » The Slovenian playmaker, despite suffering a brief elbow injury from pivot Vincent Poirier, continued his festival in the rebounding battle. “He was very motivated before the game and started well. And when it gets hot, it’s really hard to turn it off.” fullback Jaka Blazic exhibits.
SAVE YOURSELF. LUKA HAS 27 IN THE FIRST HALF! #EuroBasket x #BringTheNoise https://t.co/yJFW7Pglk1
In a game played as an elimination match, where both teams qualified for the round of 16, no one could sufficiently disengage their opponent. “It was a semi-final or final-type match in terms of intensityacknowledged by Thomas Heurtel. It was a great game for basketball fans as well. Too bad we lost it. » Like a powerful dunk from Gobert to Doncic, the French did not let themselves be told at the end of the game and returned to equality two minutes from the siren. “Despite Doncic and despite the decisions, the game remained close and played in the last two minutes,” Rudy Gobert regretted. Angry at the officials, the Blues believe they failed to defend their chances until the end, weighed down by several unfavorable decisions. “In thirteen years of international competition, I have never seen this”the coach concluded.
Despite this defeat, the French team withdrew from the very difficult Group B of the competition and left Cologne for Berlin. After playing five games in seven days, two more days off will be welcome. “When the cleavers start, it’s immediately different,” warns captain Evan Fournier and expects a “Strong game against Turkey in a very tough top of the table game”. Should they get past the Turkish trap, the Blues would likely face the Serbia of the great Nikola Jokic, a two-time NBA title MVP. Before, who knows, finding Luka Dončič and the Slovenians in the semi-finals.