EuroBasket 2017 got started on Thursday in two of its four cities – Helsinki, Finland and Tel Aviv, Israel – as those six-team groups played the first of five games each. On Friday, the action moves to Cluj-Napoca, Romania for Group C and Istanbul, Turkey for Group D. From all the groups, the top four teams will advance to the knockout rounds in Istanbul starting on September 9, with the survivor being crowned the new European national champion on Sunday, September 17.
Slovenia opened fire in Group A with a 90-81 victory over Poland, pulling away after halftime in Helsinki. Goran Dragic scored 18 of his 30 points for Slovenia in that first half, but his team had led by just 3 points until he and Real Madrid phenom Luka Doncic hit 2 free throws each in the final 8 seconds for a 53-46 score at the break. Doncic finished with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. Anthony Randolph, also from Madrid, pulled 10 rebounds, while Levallois Metropolitans shooter Klemen Prepelic had 10 points and Jaka Blazic of Morabank Andorra 7 rebounds for the winners. Mateusz Ponitka scored 22 and had 13 rebounds for Poland. A.J. Slaughter of ASVEL Villeurbanne added 12 points and Przemyslaw Karnowski of MoraBanc Andorra 11 for Poland. Greece started strong more or less continued that way in a 61-90 decision against Iceland. A 10-26 first quarter behind 9 points each from Georgios Printezis of Olympiacos Piraeus and Nikos Pappas of Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens set the tone. Although Iceland closed the gap to 33-35 late in the second quarter, Greece started the third with a 9-0 run sparked by Nick Calathes of Panathinaikos and pulled away from there. Pappas had 20 points off the bench to lead the winners, while Printezis scored 17 and his Olympiacos teammate Kostas Papanikolaou had 10. Panathinaikos newcomer Thanasis Antetokounmpo had 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks for Greece. To end the night, Helsinki hosted a major upset as home side Finland downed 2013 champions France by 84-86 on Jamar Wilson's layup with 5 seconds left in overtime. A strong home crowd saw Lauri Markkanen lead the way for Finland with 22 points and 7 rebounds. Sasu Salin of Unicaja Malaga added 14 points, while Petteri Koponen of FC Barcelona Lassa dished 8 assists for the winners. Evan Fournier scored 25 points for France, CSKA Moscow's Nando De Colo poured in 21 and Barcelona's Thomas Heurtel chipped in 10.
Germany got the first double-digit victory of the tournament and the first win in Tel Aviv by downing Ukraine 75-63 behind 32 points from Dennis Schroder, who ended the game with a three-point buzzer-beater for good measure. Robin Benzing added 17 points for Germany, while Johannes Voigtmann of Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz had a resounding baseline dunk among his 8 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Ukraine took brief leads in the second quarter before Voigtmann scored 6 of his points in a 23-8 run that spanned halftime and put Germany up for good. Maodo Lo of Brose Bamberg added 5 points, 4 rebounds for Germany. The tourney's first big upset came next, in Tel Aviv's second game, as Tornike Shengelia of Baskonia blasted off for 29 points and Georgia beat Lithuania 77-79. Trailing 74-72 with 3:28 to play after a layup by Mantas Kalnietis of AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, Georgia proceeded to hold Lithuania scoreless for the next 3 minutes. Georgia went ahead on a layup by Manuchar Markoishvili of Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia and never trailed again. Michael Dixon followed Shengelia with 12 points for Georgia, while Giorgi Shermadini of Unica Malaga had 9. Lithuania got 18 points from Mindaugas Kuzminskas and 15 from Kalnietis, while Jonas Maciulis of Real Madrid had 9, but his attempt to win the game with a buzzer-beating three-pointer missed. The home fans in Tel Aviv were disappointed in the last and most defensive-minded game all day as Italy manhandled Israel 69-48. Marco Belinelli had 18 points for Italy. Reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champ Luigi Datome added 16 points and 8 rebounds while his new Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul teammate Nicolo Melli posted 9 and 10, respectively. Omri Casspi was the sole Israeli double-figure scorer, with 18 points.