To proceed to the finals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics men’s basketball tournament, France needed a game-saving block in the dying seconds to defeat Slovenia, 90-89, at the Saitama Super Arena.
Nando De Colo led France with 25 points, while Evan Fournier contributed 23. However, it was France’s defense that made the difference in the victory.
Both Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum recorded four blocks in the game, with Batum’s block of a potential Klemen Prepelic game-winning shot with one second left sealing the victory.
Gobert also had a game-high 16 rebounds to go along with his nine points.
Doncic had a fantastic game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 18 assists, but he appeared to injure himself in the fourth quarter and was unable to contribute much after that.
With the win, France set up a rematch in the finals against a strong USA team.
The French squad has previously defeated the Americans in these Olympics, having defeated them 83-76 in the group stage last week.
The United States advanced to the finals with a 97-78 triumph over Australia in the second semifinal, led by NBA star Kevin Durant’s 23 points.
Slovenia was led by Mike Tobey, who scored 23 points, and Prepelic, who scored 17.
Doncic grabbed command of the game in the first quarter, scoring or assisting on 15 of Slovenia’s first 18 points to take an 18-14 lead. After one period, he had 10 points and five assists, and his side led 29-27.
Prepelic didn’t have as much of an impact in the second quarter, but he gave Slovenia a major boost as they stayed in lead, 44-42, at halftime.
In the first half, Doncic scored 12 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, but they were unable to pull away from a deep France squad, which had five current and former NBA players score seven or more points at halftime, topped by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with ten.
After a 12-3 surge in the third period, France was able to take the lead thanks to De Colo’s offense and Gobert’s strong defensive contributions. At the 6:18 mark of the third quarter, France had taken an eight-point lead, 60-52.
They’d get as close as ten points, 69-59, before the Slovenians’ late threes cut the French lead to six points, 71-65.
Doncic’s playmaking kept his side in the game, but he appeared to damage his wrist after banging it against a plexiglass partition while trying to keep the ball from sliding out of bounds.
It didn’t appear to worry him at first, as he made two free throws and handed out two more assists to pull his team within striking distance. With 5:26 left on the clock, Slovenia’s Mike Tobey hit a putback to level the game at 78 apiece.
De Colo and Fournier continued to make plays for France, but Slovenia refused to go away, and Tobey knotted the game at 85 with 3:06 left on a tremendous putback.
With 56 seconds left, France got a big shot to fall, as Luwawu Cabarrot knocked down an open three-pointer to make it 90-85.
Slovenia had some key contributions from Prepelic, who sank a free throw and then a booming triple on Doncic’s 18th assist with 33 seconds left to get Slovenia within one, 90-89.
On the other end, De Colo missed a shot, and Doncic collected a rebound to finish his triple-double.
He brought the ball up and passed it to Prepelic, who drove hard to the rim, but Batum blocked his layup from behind.
France 90 – De Colo 25, Fournier 23, Luwawu-Cabarrot 15, Gobert 9, Yabusele 9, Heurtel 6, Batum 3, Fall 0, Ntilikina 0.
Slovenia 89 – Tobey 23, Prepelic 17, Doncic 16, Blazic 14, Cancar 11, Dimec 4, Hrovat 3, Dragic 1, Muric 0, Nikolic 0.
Quarterscores: 27-29, 42-44, 71-65, 90-89.