Goran Dragic would not be denied at the EuroBasket final between Slovenia and Serbia on Sunday in Istanbul, scoring 35 points in Slovenia's 93-85 victory.
Klemen Prepelic (21 points, three assists) and Anthony Randolph (11 points) also came up huge for Slovenia down the stretch, while NBA prospect Luka Doncic added eight points and seven rebounds.
Mike Schmitz summed up the victory for Slovenia:
Bogdan Bogdanovic (22 points, five assists) and Milan Macvan (18 points, five rebounds) paced Serbia.
Dragic was named the tournament's MVP.
It was well-deserved. He was absolutely unstoppable in the first half, scoring 20 points in the second quarter alone and 26 points in the half. Schmitz shared some of Dragic's impressive stats from the opening frame:
According to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, Dragic's 35 points were the most ever scored by a Slovenian in the tournament.
Dragic, the lone NBA player on Slovenia's roster, was impressive throughout the team's shocking 9-0 run in the tournament, joined by prodigy Doncic, a potential top overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. FIBA shared highlights from both players in the final:
But with Doncic hurting his ankle, Slovenia had to rely on players like Randolph down the stretch to hold off Serbia's second-half push. It did just that, setting up Dragic helping Doncic off the court after the game in a memorable scene, per Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report:
There was symbolism in the moment. Dragic, in his last international game, walking off with the country's future leader in Doncic.
Slovenia's accomplishment should not be undersold. The country itself is comprised of just around two million people, and as Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today noted, "26 years ago, players from Slovenia and Serbia played for Yugoslavia at 1991 Eurobasket. Today, Slovenia beat Serbia for the Eurobasket title."
And to do it, it beat Spain in the semifinals, one of the giants of European basketball that featured a roster with a slew of NBA players, including Marc and Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio. Serbia had a greater NBA presence on its roster as well, highlighted by Bogdanovic and Boban Marjanovic.
Doncic, for certain, will be in the NBA and would appear to have a bright future ahead of him. Dragic remains a productive player for the Miami Heat. But despite that fact, Slovenia's championship run was unexpected and will remain one of the more memorable results in Eurobasket history.