EuroBasket 2017 came to a close Sunday night with a historic night for Slovenian basketball. Slovenia outlasted Serbia 93-85 at Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul, Turkey, to become the champion of Europe for the first time. It concluded a wonderful event that saw Spain defeat Russia for the bronze medal earlier Sunday.
Slovenia 93-85 Serbia
Slovenia became the EuroBasket champion for the first time after holding off Serbia 93-85. Slovenia outscored Serbia 13-3 over the final 3:30 despite the fact that its two biggest stars, Goran Dragic and Real Madrid sensation Luka Doncic were on the bench with injuries. Dragic scored all of his 35 points in the first three quarters before Levallois Metropolitans swingman Klemen Prepelic and Real Madrid big man Anthony Randolph led Slovenia down the stretch. Prepelic finished with 21 points and Randolph tallied 11 points and blocked 3 shots. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who helped Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul win the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague crown on the same floor back in May, led Serbia with 22 points and FC Bayern Munich big man Milan Macvan added 18. The game was close from the start and Serbia led 20-22 after 10 minutes. Slovenia made its move when Dragic scored the last 6 points in an 11-0 run to make it 38-28. Serbia wiped away half of its deficit through a three-point play by FC Bayern Munich forward Vladimir Lucic and a triple by Fenerbahce’s Marko Guduric. Back-to-back threes by Dragic restored a double-digit Slovenia lead, but Bogdanovic cut the margin to 56-47 at halftime. Dragic opened the second half with a three that gave Slovenia its largest lead, 12. Doncic left with an apparent ankle injury midway through the third quarter as Bogdanovic helped power Serbia back. Anadolu Efes Istanbul center Vladimir Stimac finished inside to make it 63-61. Slovenia scored the next 6 points and managed to keep a 71-67 edge entering the fourth quarter. MoraBanc Andorra guard Jaka Blazic extended the Slovenia lead to 75-67, but Serbia would not be denied. Macvan capped a 0-8 Serbia charge for his team’s first lead of the second half, 77-78. Prepelic put Slovenia back on top with a triple as a tense finish started to brew. The game was tied at 80-80 and 82-82 before Prepelic came through with another big shot and Randolph scored in the paint. Prepelic, who was fouled attempting a three-pointer with 1:05 remaining, made 2 of the resulting shots and Brose Bamberg guard Aleksej Nikolic all but iced the game with 2 free throws with 35 seconds left that capped a 10-0 surge.
Spain 93-85 Russia
Spain finished its sixth consecutive EuroBasket tournament on the podium after defeating Russia 93-85 for the bronze medal. Spain led from start to finish, but had to hold off a late Russia charge that cut an 18-point difference down to 2. Pau Gasol starred for Spain with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks, his younger brother Marc netted 25 points and CSKA Moscow guard Sergio Rodriguez tallied 16 points, 9 assists and 3 steals for the winners. Khimki Moscow Region guard Alexey Shved paced Russia with 18 points, Timofey Mozgov posted 14 point and 10 rebounds and CSKA forward Andrey Vorontsevich and Dmitry Kulagin added 10 points apiece. Valencia Basket swingman Fernando San Emeterio scored 5 early points as Spain raced out to an 11-3 lead. Although Shved tried to keep Russia close, his team had no answer for Marc Gasol and Spain cruised to a 21-13 lead after 10 minutes. Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar guard Dmitriy Khvostov drew Russia with 4 early in the second quarter, but Pau Gasol scored 6 of Spain’s points in an 11-0 run that broke the game open. A layup by Rodriguez lifted Spain to a 45-28 halftime advantage. Russia rallied in the third behind Vorontsevich and eventually cut the margin to 62-52 on Dmitry Kulagin free throws, however Spain managed to stop the bleeding and the scoreboard showed 66-55 through three quarters. Russia kept the pressure on threes by Kulagin and Andrey Zubkov made it 78-76 with three minutes to go. Spain was able to turn to the Gasol brothers down the stretch to preserve the victory and a medal.