For a week, Cologne (Germany) has eyes only for him. His number 77 at the Dallas Mavericks wins hands down on the shoulders of supporters – and not only those of his country – and when it comes to his name, during the presentation of the teams, he receives the most ovation. Among the myriad of NBA stars who came to play in Euro 2022 basketball, Luka Doncic is a special player – along with Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo and Serbian Nikola Jokic. It was his team from Slovenia that the French men’s basketball team faced on Wednesday, September 7, in the final meeting of the group stage. At the end of a tough and disputed game, carried by a sparkling Luka Doncic, the reigning European champions won over the Blues (88-82).
With 47 points, the Slovenian leader probably signed the greatest offensive performance in the history of the competition. Alone in front of him, the 63 points of the Belgian Eddy Terrace in 1957 against Albania, but difficult to compare today’s basketball with that where the Euro was then disputed in the open air. In a trance, the Mavs player took his team to first place in the very tough Group D. Third, the Blues will face Turkey in the round of 16 on Saturday in Berlin.
“If a player scores 50 points, how do you want to win a gameasks the French leader Thomas Heurtel. Of course, it’s Luka Doncic, one of the best players in the world, but we have to change something. In the end, we made it harder for him, but in the beginning, it was so easy for him. »
“A total lack of respect”, denounces Vincent Collet
However, the Blues have made life difficult for Balkan players. “We produced our best game [de la compétition] », noted Vincent Collet. Usually of an Olympian calm, the French coach was not angry against the arbitration, as permissive with the Slovenes as severe with his troops, according to him. “There was a total lack of respect towards us. Tonight, I consider that we have been mistreated “lamented the coach, deploring that the referees have “prevented the players from deciding the match at the end of the game”. Since the beginning of the continental competition, if the level of play is very high, the arbitration sometimes leaves something to be said, and the French coach is not the first to be moved by it.
In this rematch of the semi-final of the last Olympic Games, which had seen the French win thanks to a counter in the dying seconds of their captain Nicolas Batum – absent during this campaign – the two teams went to blows for cut.
Luka Doncic discovered Terry Tarpey. Opposed all year to the gratin of the NBA, there was little chance that the Slovenian maestro knew who the Le Mans winger was before the competition – some of his teammates in the Blues also did not know. But the incessant defense of the French revelation of the tournament hampered, to begin with, Luka Doncic. And the Slovenians had to wait until the sixth minute of the game to register their first basket in the game. Applied in defense, and taking care of the ball in attack, the French started the game with seriousness.
Partners “like spectators”
But they could only see the awakening of “Luka”, under the cries “MVP, MVP” of the public (for Most Valuable Player, ” best player “). Chaining brilliant actions, Doncic multiplied and at the break, he had already accumulated 27 points. “Luka is one of the best players in history. We are like spectators, privileged witnesses of something great. And we’re doing our best to help him.” recognized his teammate Jaka Blazic.
“Luka is a fantastic player, he manages to raise his level of play like almost no other player, confirms the French pivot Rudy Gobert. Today he had his night, some of his shots were really hard, and we have to congratulate him. » Even briefly damaged by an elbow from pivot Vincent Poirier, during a rebound battle, the Slovenian playmaker continued his festival. “He was very motivated before the match, and he started well. And when it starts to get hot, it’s really hard to turn it off.” exposes full-back Jaka Blazic.
TAKE A BOW. LUKA HAS 27 IN THE FIRST HALF! #EuroBasket x #BringTheNoise https://t.co/yJFW7Pglk1
In a game played like an eliminatory match when the two teams had qualified for the round of 16, no one was able to sufficiently detach their opponent. “It was a semi-final or final type match in terms of intensityrecognized Thomas Heurtel. It was a great game, too, for basketball fans. Too bad we lost it. » Like a powerful dunk from Gobert on Doncic, the French did not let themselves be told at the end of the game, returning to equality two minutes from the siren. “Despite Doncic, and despite the decisions, the match remained tight, and it was played in the last two minutes”, regretted Rudy Gobert. Angry with the officials, the Blues believe they could not defend their chances until the end, weighed down by several unfavorable decisions. “In thirteen years of international competitions, I had never seen that”concluded the coach.
Despite this defeat, the French team pulled out of the very tough group B of the competition, and left Cologne for Berlin. After playing five games in seven days, the next two days off will be welcome. “When the cleaver matches start, it’s immediately different”, warns Captain Evan Fournier, anticipating a “Strong match against Turkey in a very tough game of the table”. If they pass the Turkish pitfall, the Blues would probably face the Serbia of a great Nikola Jokic, double MVP in title in the NBA. Before, who knows, finding Luka Doncic and the Slovenians in the semi-finals.