The question was who whould guard Luka Doncic, and it was Nicolas Batum who answered the call. He started the game by blocking the Slovenian.
That didn’t stop Doncic from dominating that first quarter, though, as he still put up to the tune of 10 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists. He also got a lot of help from Mike Tobey, who also had 10 points.
France, known for their defense, instead stayed in the game by keeping up pace with Slovenia’s scoring as the first quarter finished 29-27.
Both offenses started to slow down as neither team could score in the first minute until France tied the game at 29, even though both teams had multiple opportunities. With 6:37 left in the second quarter, the score was tied at 31, showing the continuing offensive struggles of both sides. This kind of grind-it-out game favored France, so it was interesting to see how Slovenia would react after a timeout.
When Doncic came back with 5:30 in the second quarter after France grabbed a 33-31 lead, things changed drastically for Slovenia’s offense. He almost instantly tied the game with a drive on Rudy and Slovenia quickly pushed their lead back up 38-35 after a couple more buckets before France tied the game again at 38. He finished the first half with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
France, to their credit, continued to keep up and were only behind 44-42 at halftime. They were led in scoring by Timothe Luwau Cabbarot, who had 10 points. They also had a strong performance from Gobert, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, who had 5 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Batum had no points but the half but made his presence known with 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 blocks.
Slovenia, who are pretty good three point shooters, only shot 25% from beyond the arc the half, but made 64% of their two-point field goals. France, on the other hand, shot 37% of their twos but made 36% of their threes.
France had a 27-20 rebounding lead, but Slovenia outscored them 26-12 in the paint. Les Bleus had also only spent 1:05 of the game with the lead by the half, while Slovenia had it for 12:04.
Doncic opened the second half with a bucket for Slovenia to make it 46-42, but Batum answered with a three for his first bucket of the game to make it 46-45. Evan Fournier followed up with another triple to make it a 48-46 game for France, only to see it answered right away as Slovenia returned the favor to make it 49-48.
Les Bleus had no qualms about that, though, and forced Slovenia to take a timeout after taking a 54-49 lead. With a little over two minutes left in the quarter, France grabbed their biggest lead of the game at 69-59, having seemingly figured out how Slovenia’s defense. They also continuously hounded a visibly tired frustrated Doncic, preventing him from getting any easy baskets to key any runs for Slovenia.
Slovenia managed to cut the lead a little heading into the third quarter, at least, as the fourth quarter started with a 71-65 advantage for France. Slovenia started with a quick 5-0 run to make it 71-70, but France had an answer of their own to make it 76-72. The Slovenians were much more aggressive, though, already drawing a fourth team foul on France with more than seven minutes left in the contest.
It didn’t help Slovenia’s cause that Doncic hurt his wrist after jamming it into the plexiglass on the scorers’ table. However, he still knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 78-74 with 6:38 left after drawing a fourth team foul on France. Slovenia brought it back to within 78-76 after Doncic made another big assist to Tobey on their signature pick and roll. Tobey tied the game at 78 with a putback after that.
Slovenia slowed their own momentum after getting a technical foul, which allowed France to take advantage and retake 82-78 lead by making a three pointer along with the foul shot with 4:27 left in the game.
Slovenia got their own break after France got called for a technical foul, and with 3:26 left France only led 82-81. Evan Fournier hit a big three to make it 85-81, but Slovenia answered to tie the game again at 85.
Doncic didn’t look like himself in the closing moments and looked unable to take a jumpshot. France held a 90-85 advantage in the final minute of the game, but a quick foul allowed Slovenia to cut it to 90-86 with a split pair of free throws from Klemen Prepelic. Prepelic then drew an offensive foul on Fournier with 44.3 left on the clock. That was crucial because it fouled Fournier out of the game, and Slovenia made it 90-89 with 33.2 seconds left after a Prepelic three.
Doncic got his triple-double with 21 seconds left, but Batum won France the game with a crucial block with a second left. Doncic had only the third triple-double in Olympic history with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists.
Nando de Colo led all scorers with 25 points, while Fournier added 23 points. Luwawu was the other French player in double figures with 15. Gobert finished with 9 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks.
Les Bleus now have the gold medal game to look forward to, where they’ll face the mighty Team USA. France will be looking forward to the game considering that they defeated the Americans in their group stage opener. Team USA, though, have looked deadly after that stinging defeat.