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VICTORIA, BC – JULY 4 : Players of Czech Republic celebrate after FIBA Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament final match between Czech Republic and Greece in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on July 4, 2021. (Photo : Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Luka Doncic is going to Tokyo. The Dallas Mavericks superstar delivered a performance for the ages on Sunday, registering a triple-double to lead Slovenia past Lithuania and send his nation to the Olympics for the very first time.
Playing on the road in front of 11,561 fans at the Zalgiris Arena in Kaunas, Doncic silenced the Lithuanian home support in Sunday’s finals, finishing with 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists in Slovenia’s 96-85 win.
Doncic’s triple-double sends Slovenia to first Olympics
It was the first triple-double by any player in any of the four Olympic qualifying tournaments held in the past week to determine the last four teams in the Olympic men’s basketball field.
Slovenia took control in the second half, opening the third quarter with an 11-2 run to take a 63-54 lead. Lithuania battled back, though, to cut the deficit to 71-69. Slovenia, however, delivered the dagger with a back-breaking 14-0 run that all but ended Lithuania’s run in the Olympics.
Jonas Valanciunas, Mantas Kalnietis, and Arnas Butkevicius each scored 14 points for Lithuania, which will miss the Olympic Games for the first time since getting its independence from the Soviet Union. They have been to the Olympics for the past seven editions.
It wasn’t just Doncic who carried the scoring cudgels for Slovenia in the winner-take-all match. Vlatko Cancar scored 18 points while Jaka Blazic and Mike Tobey racked up 16 and 13 points, respectively, for the Slovenians.
It wasn’t just Lithuania who suffered a painful home loss in the Olympic qualifiers. Croatia and Canada lost in the semifinals, while Serbia, the reigning Olympic silver medalists, suffered a gut-wrenching defeat to Italy in the regional final.
Italy, Czech Republic, and Germany also qualify for Olympics
Starring for the Italians in the shock 102-95 win over Serbia was Nico Mannion. The Golden State Warriors guard scored 24 points to lead Italy to its first appearance in the Olympics since 2004. Achille Polonara and Simone Fontecchio chipped in 22 and 21 points, respectively, for the Italians, who knocked down 14 three-pointers in the upset victory.
Joining Italy and Slovenia in Tokyo later this month are Germany and the Czech Republic. Orlando Magic forward Moritz Wagner played the game of his life in the qualifying final against Brazil, scoring 28 points on 7-of-11 shooting to lead the Germans to a famous 75-64 win.
The road to the Olympics was tough for the Germans, who had to survive a 38-point explosion from Utah Jazz star Bojan Bogdanovic in the semifinals to record an 86-76 win. With their victories against Croatia and Brazil, the Germans qualified for the Olympics for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Games.
On the other hand, the Czech Republic completed its fairytale run with a 97-72 win over European powerhouse Greece as they also qualified for the Olympics tournament for the first time. Tomas Satoransky, who scored the game-winning bank shot that ended Canada’s Olympic dreams, recorded 12 points in the victory against Greece.
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