Slovenia brought the penultimate day in Istanbul to a close with a thrilling, 80-77 victory over a strong Brazil side.
Jaka Lakovic led the Slovene charge with 20 points with big-man Primoz Brezec adding 16. In defeat, Tiago Splitter hit 19 for Brazil.
The highly-charged contest, which saw Anderson Verejao return from injury – saw Slovenia start with eight straight points from Primoz Brezec. Tiago Splitter had four early points, as Slovenia led 8-7, off a Brezec dunk.
Buckets were traded in a fairly even first quarter. Both teams were matching the other, basket for basket. Slovenia edged ahead towards the end of one, a Goran Dragic bucket was denied by referees, as the buzzer sounded. (18-20).
Second quarter was when the tide turned, Slovenia were in the mood. As Slovenia scored the first 14 points – to go up 34-18. Two field-goals from Splitter narrowed it to 34-22, before Slovenian coach, Becirovic called his troops in for a timeout.
Splitter, again scored after the timeout, which was answered with a trey from Jaka Lakovic. Verejao hit his first points of the game inside, but terrible defence from the Brazilians gave Laconic an open triple, which he buried to give Slovenia a commanding 44-30 lead going into the break.
Brazil came out for the third quarter, pumped up. An 8-0 run to start the third, brought them to within nine (38-47). Forcing a Slovenian timeout.
Lakovic restored the double-digit lead for Slovenia with a floater (49-38) – and a pair of foul shots from Dragic, gave them a lead of 13 mid-way through the third (56-43).
Brazil’s free-throw shooting was letting them down, Verejao scoring, but missing the resulting foul shot – the fifth miss from the Brazilians from the line.
Slovenia were comfortable though ending the third period, they were up, 67-51. Brazil up against it.
Leandro Barbosa’s bucket was matched by a three from Lakovic to start the final period of play – to give Slovenia a 70-53 lead – but before the celebrations could begin, back-to-back threes from Marcelo Machado brought Brazil to within 11 (59-70), forcing a timeout from Becirovic.
The timeout had no effect, as Brazil came roaring back from what looked like certain defeat. Further buckets from Barbosa and two Machado buckets pulling it closer to 66-70.
A Lakovic triple brought to an end a 12-0 spurt, forcing Brazil’s coach, Ruben Magnano to call a timeout – with 3:10 to go.
Slovenia would not be denied this win though; this was Jaka Lakovic’s day, as he buried a clutch three-pointer to give Slovenia the advantage that they would keep for good.
“It was a very difficult game for us.” Lakovic said after the game.
“We were a bit sleepy at the start – but, after five minutes, we started to play our game, we played like a team after that.”
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net – in Istanbul.