Suns Euro-blog: Dragic Shines in Upset Win Over Spain, Gortat Solid, Kravtsov Breaks Out
With a green sea of countrymen cheering him on, Goran Dragic helped give Slovenian basketball arguably the biggest win in its history.
The Suns point guard amassed 18 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals as Slovenia upset defending EuroBasket champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Spain, 78-69. The host country of EuroBasket 2013, Slovenia is now the only undefeated team in Group C.
Dragic was the biggest reason why, scoring 11 points in the back-and-forth final quarter. He started the spurt with a fastbreak layup over Marc Gasol, then followed with a bank shot, plus a foul on Sergio Rodriguez.
Each time Dragic or one of his teammates scored down the stretch, the green-clad home crowd went into a frenzy, sensing an upset.
After taking a brief rest on the bench, the Suns playmaker struck again, throwing down a one-handed dunk on a fastbreak feed from his brother Zoran. After two Bostjan Nachbar free throws, Dragic again attacked the rim, this time twisting around Gasol for a reverse layup to put Slovenia up by seven. His final basket, a pivoting push-shot in the paint, sealed the win.
The host country trailed by as many as eight points, struggling on their way to just 29 percent shooting in the first half while seeing Spain out-rebound them 24-12. Slovenia's defense kept them from falling further behind, forcing 14 turnovers and coming up with four steals.
Slovenia (2-0) will play Georgia (1-1) on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. PST. All EuroBasket games can be seen on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app.
Gortat solid, but Poland falls to Czech Republic
Marcin Gortat’s late-game heroics weren’t enough to fend off a feisty Czech Republic team that had given Goran Dragic and Slovenia a two-point scare the night before. This time they came away with a 69-68 EuroBasket win in dramatic fashion.
With the Czech Republic again trailing by just a bucket, Gortat was held out of the final defensive possession, similar to when Indiana sat Roy Hibbert for the final sequence against Miami in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Both decisions ended up costing the respective teams on defense.
Poland’s defensive rotation left a shooter open in the weakside corner, a mistake that gave up the game-winning 3-pointer with five seconds left. With no timeouts left, Poland was forced the final possession, ultimately seeing former Phoenix Sun Maciej Lampe miss a contested 20-footer at the buzzer.
The dramatic final minute obliterated an 8-0 run by Poland, spearheaded by Gortat. With four minutes left and the score tied 58-58, The Suns big man snagged a defensive rebound before posting up and spnning baseline on the ensuing possession. When a second defender rotated for the double-team, the Polish Hammer pivoted back out and found an open teammate on the strong side for an open jumper.
Two possessions later he was at it again, this time setting a familiar screen on the perimeter before rolling away for an open midrange jump shot. When Czech and Washington Wizards big man Jan Vesely tried to answer by driving straight at him on the other end, Gortat snuffed the attempt by meeting him at the top for a clean block.
The Suns veteran finished with five points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal.
Gortat and Poland (0-2) will face Dario Saric and Croatia (1-1) on Saturday at 8:45 a.m. PST.
Kravtsov comes up big as Ukraine tops Israel
When mentally keeping tabs of the Suns' talented, foreign big men, don't leave out Viacheslav Kravtsov.
The recently acquired center gave his home country of Ukraine a big presence in the middle in their 74-67 win over Israel on Thursday, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot.
Kravtsov's performance on offense was markedly better after a rough first game against Belgium, though the Ukrainian-born big man now has 13 rebounds and five blocks through the first two games.
Ukraine (2-0) will play Germany on Saturday at 5:30 a.m. PST.