Eurobasket’s two unbeaten sides lock horns on Thursday as Spain and Slovenia do battle in Istanbul for a place in Sunday’s showpiece final.
This will no doubt be familiar territory for Spain as they head to the medal rounds for the tenth straight Eurobasket tournament. You have to go back to Eurobasket in 2005 for the last time they didn’t have a shot at a podium finish.
But for Slovenia, for the exciting brand of basketball that we have been honoured to witness, they head to the medal rounds for the first time since 2009, when they agonisingly missed out on bronze to Greece in Katowice. Luka Doncic was only ten years old back then, but eight years on, last season’s EuroLeague’s Rising Star recipient has been terrorising opponents during the summer.
Tournament form – Spain: WWWWWWW – Slovenia: WWWWWWW
Breakdown: In many ways, this game is worthy of a final, so intoxicating is the match-up filled with a slew of superstars. The teams contrast in styles adding to the intrigue.
Blessed with brilliant playmakers Dragic and Doncic, Slovenia like to run and gun and are capable of scoring in bucket loads – testament to their 103 points against Latvia.
Dragic and Doncic are both brilliant in transition and also in isolation making them able to score or set up buckets in different ways. They will look to be aggressive and drive to the rim in a bid to get the Gasols in foul trouble, much like they successfully did against Porzingis.
Their vision and slick passing skills ensure Slovenia get plenty of open looks. However, for Slovenia to cause a boil over, they will have to match Spain’s unparalleled inside strength.
Against Latvia, Randolph and Gasper Vidmar were tireless helping Slovenia gain a major advantage on the boards. They will need to replicate that effort and fight against Spain. If they can, Slovenia will have every reason to feel optimistic about their chances of making a first-ever final.
In a tight affair against Germany in the quarter-finals, Marc Gasol turned the game on its head with an 18-point explosion in the third term to inspire Spain to victory.
Gasol has somewhat been overshadowed as Spain have preferred going through his brother Pau. Against Germany, the younger Gasol’s all-round prowess – including his rediscovered three-point stroke – came to the fore during his third-quarter heroics.
When the Gasols dominate in that fashion, Spain are almost unbeatable. Slovenia will need to contain that.
Breakdown via FIBA