Dončić beats Jokić in NBA superstar encounter in Stožice
Ljubljana, 18 August - The Slovenian men's basketball team scored another win as it gears up for the EuroBasket, defeating Serbia 97:92 in an overtime thriller in Ljubljana on Wednesday evening that saw Slovenia's Luka Dončić outplay the fellow NBA superstar Nikola Jokić.
The spectacle in the packed Stožice Arena, which was attended by many celebrities, including tennis legend Novak Đoković and UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, was the fifth win for Slovenia in as many warm-up matches ahead of the European championship.
Some 12,000 spectators in the sold-out Stožice Arena saw the Slovenian NBA superstar Dončić score 34 points to secure the home team the win and outscore the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Jokić, who scored 26 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
The repeat of the 2017 EuroBasket finals in Istanbul, which was won by Slovenia, was a tight match, with no team having a lead of more than five points at any moment, so no one was surprised that an overtime was needed to determine the winner.
It was Slovenia's Vlatko Čančar, Jokić's team mate from the Denver Nuggets, who scored a decisive three-pointer in the extra session, followed by the game-clinching free throws by Edo Murić and Klemen Prepelič.
Veteran Goran Gragić, who recently signed for the Chicago Bulls, played only some five minutes, as head coach Aleksander Sekulić decided to rest him and spare him from a possible injury so that he could be fully prepared for the EuroBasket in September.
"We earned this win with a great deal of aggressiveness, sacrifice and above all with collective game," Sekulić told reporters after the match.
Murić added that "it was apparent that neither team was in the top shape, but we are happy to win another tough and competitive match. A lot of work is ahead of us, we must raise the pace and improve our defensive effort."
After another friendly match with Croatia in Celje on Saturday, Slovenia will play two qualifying matches for the 2023 World Cup next week - against Estonia in Celje and against Germany in Munich, before travelling to Cologne for the EuroBasket.