Dragic Drops Nine Dimes as Slovenia Outlasts Czech Republic

Everyone wondered how much havoc Goran Dragic would wreak on offense in EuroBasket 2013. Turns out the Suns guard’s biggest statement in the opener came on defense.

With Slovenia clinging to a two-point lead with under a minute remaining, Dragic found himself being posted up by Czech Republic star Tomas Satoransky. The matchup, sporting a three-inch disparity in height, provided an early answer as to how well the Slovenian playmaker could potentially match up defensively against shooting guards in the NBA.

The result was more than promising. Dragic held his ground, refusing to be backed down while forcing Satoransky into a contested turnaround jumper that clanged off the rim.

Two more defensive stands by Slovenia helped seal a narrow 62-60 win, a much closer-than-expected margin of victory for the host country’s team. Adrenalin, fueled by a sea of green-clad Slovenian fans, resulted in rushed shots. Dragic picked the opposing defense apart on pick-and-roll sets, but several of the open looks he created were off the mark. Dragic shot 3-of-15 from the field, part of the team's overall 34.3 percent effort from the field.

The Suns’ veteran, however, made sure scoring didn’t make or break his game. He turned in nine assists and two steals to go along with his eight points, often finding a weak-side teammate forgotten by the Czech Republic’s defensive rotations.

On one play Dragic appeared ready to shoot an elbow jump shot, only to fire a pass underneath to a teammate for an easy basket instead. Another sequence saw him recognize Jaka Blazic making a hard backdoor cut and reward him with a perfectly placed bounce pass for an easy layup.

Phoenix’s floor general helped keep the Czech Republic at bay during the frenetic and physical final minutes. After securing a rebound, Dragic appeared to take a hit in the backcourt, with the resulting turnover turning into two easy points for Jiri Welsch. He responded in the next possession, coolly draning a turnaround jump shot from the free throw line.

Slovenia’s next game will be against European powerhouse Spain on Thursday at 11:50 a.m. PST. The game can be seen on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.

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