July 15, 2024

Luka Dončić, Slovenia knocked out of Olympic contention with loss to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece

After playing 92 games between the regular season and playoffs, Dallas Maverick star Luka Dončić will get some extra time to rest this summer after his Slovenian team was knocked out of Olympic contention after a blowout loss to Greece, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Dončić finished with a game-high 21 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 assists, but Greece coasted to a 96-68 victory thanks in part to 13 points and 4 rebounds from Antetokounmpo, who played dominant defense throughout his 20 minutes of action. Thomas Walkup led Greece in scoring with 19 points.

Dončić played a game-high 34 minutes, while Antetokounmpo rested much of the second half.

The semifinal round victory boosts Greece to Sunday’s final of the Olympic qualifying tournament hosted in Piraeus, Greece. They will face the winner of the Dominican Republic versus Croatia contest.

The failure to qualify marks a major step back for Slovenia, who finished fourth at the 2020 Olympics. That appearance was the country’s first Olympic berth and Dončić starred throughout, being selected to the tournament All-Star Team.

Greece hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since 2008. Despite not yet reaching the Olympics, Antetokounmpo has played with the Greece national team extensively, including at the 2014 and 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup tournaments, the 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament and the 2015 and 2022 EuroBasket tournaments.

Much needed rest for Dončić

Dončić’s season, finally, has ended. To him, what must have seemed like a never-ending procession of basketball games that led him to the NBA Finals and now Olympic qualifiers has finally concluded in disappointment. Due to his team’s long postseason run, he has hardly stopped playing since last October.

Dončić’s Slovenia was simply not at the same level as the Antetokounmpo-led Greece national squad in Saturday’s do-or-die chance at making it to next month’s Paris Olympics. Dončić did his part, but he still seemed encumbered by the many ailments that he carried with him throughout the Mavericks’ postseason run.

For Dončić, this result of course only contains disappointment. But after suffering a knee sprain three months ago, in the first round of the NBA postseason, he has been visibly hampered — some games more than others — and has said he won’t be 100 percent until he takes time to rest this summer. That process, finally, can now begin. While Dallas would never stop him from playing for the national team, the organization must at least be relieved that Dončić’s summer, such that it is, has finally truly begun. — Tim Cato, Mavericks beat writer

Olympic stage would be huge for Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo is now one step closer to representing his country in the Olympics. Greece has a proud basketball tradition. They’ve won the Eurobasket competition twice (1987, 2005) and finished second in the FIBA World Cup in 2006, a competition where they beat the United States in the semifinals. Greece has appeared in the men’s basketball tournament in four Olympics (1952, 1996, 2004, 2008) and finished in fifth place in their last three appearances, but this would be the first Olympics appearance for Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks superstar forward has regularly appeared for his national team throughout his NBA career and it clearly means a lot to him, so appearing in the Olympics would be a real milestone for him. — Eric Nehm, Bucks beat writer

Required reading

(Photo by Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty Images)