Luka Doncic and the Slovenia national team continued their success at the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
With Doncic finishing with 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and two steals, Slovenia moved on to the next round with a 116-81 triumph over Japan on Wednesday night. Slovenia will next be matched up on Sunday against the powerful team from Spain, who are one of the favorites to win this year’s gold medal.
Still, Japan coach Julio Lamas isn’t so sure anyone can pencil in Spain — led by brothers Marc and Pau Gasol — as the eventual winner, primarily because of the presence of Doncic.
“Before the tournament I think Spain is better,” Lamas said. “Right now I don’t know. I’m sorry. I don’t know.
“Maybe Spain is better, but I’m not sure because I’m not sure how Luka Doncic can be stopped.”
Either way, Slovenia has already secured a spot in next week’s quarterfinals. And it’s all mainly because of Doncic.
While Doncic was right smack in the middle of the blowout victory by Slovenia, unlike Sunday night when he collected 48 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks during a 118-100 win over Argentina, this time the Dallas Mavericks’ superstar point guard had plenty of help from his teammates.
In addition to the performance from Doncic, Slovenia got 24 points and five rebounds from Zoran Dragic, 16 points from Vlarko Cancar, and 10 points from Jaka Blazic to run their Olympic record to 2-0.
“That’s the thing that separates Luka from other stars,” said Luka Rupnik, who is one of Doncic’s teammates. “Even in the NBA, he makes the team better.
“We have a lot of talent, and Luka just finds the better solutions.”
Meanwhile, Jock Landale fired in 18 points, Patty Mills scored 16 points and Nic Kay added 15 as Australia edged Italy, 86-83, on Wednesday night. The Mavs’ Josh Green was scoreless in that game for Australia after playing just one minute.
Doncic was 8-of-15 from the field, 2-of-8 from 3-point range and 7-of-10 from the free throw line in – for him – what was a pedestrian-like performance.
Slovenia led 29-23 after the first quarter, as Doncic and Japan’s Rui Hachimura each tossed in 13 points apiece in the opening period. Slovenia padded its lead to 53-41 at the half.
Hachimura, who also plays for the Washington Wizards, led all scorers with 34 points and teammate Yura Watanabe, who also plays for the Toronto Raptors, added 17 points.
By halftime, Doncic had already produced 15 points, six rebounds and four assists, and was 5-of-9 from the floor.
“They played better than us,” Lamas said. “Doncic is one of the top four or five best players in the world right now.”
A nifty spin move by Doncic widen Slovenia’s lead to 66-48 with less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Slovenia kept pouring it on from there and eventually carried an 80-64 cushion into the fourth quarter, despite Doncic sitting out the final five-and-a-half minutes of the quarter
But less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, Doncic unleashed a step-back 3-pointer that increased Slovenia’s lead to 83-66. From there, the flood gates opened for Slovenia as they won going away and continued to show why they are a serious contender to nab one of the three medals when the Olympics are finally in the books.
Doncic now has scored 73 points in Slovenia’s two Olympic games while proving what NBA players and coaches already know. And that is he is almost unstoppable.
“I don’t see in the last 30 years one player dominate a game like he is in this tournament,” Lamas said. “Today we suffered from Luka Doncic, and it’s never nice when you lose.
“But I feel it’ a good experience playing one time against Doncic, and I will remember it.”