Goran Dragic of the Miami Heat led Slovenia in a win over European powerhouse France to advance to the knockout phase of the 2017 FIBA EuroBasket. Dragic scored 22 points and dished out eight assists for Slovenia who finished the preliminary round with a perfect 5-0 record.

Dragic in midseason form as Slovenia trashed France

Showcasing the form that made him one of the best point guards in the NBA, Goran Dragic led Slovenia’s first quarter attack, scoring nine points and setting the tone for the game. France managed to hang with Slovenia due in part to their hot start but fell behind midway through the quarter.

NBA prospect Luka Doncic chipped in 10 points in the first quarter to help the Slovenians build a 28-22 advantage after the first frame. The Slovenia National Team broke the game wide open in the second quarter, outscoring France 24-13 to end the first half with a 52-35 lead against the France team that missed the services of mainstays Rudy Gobert and Tony Parker.

Slovenia further increased their lead as they again outscored France 25-16 in the third quarter. France managed to make the score respectable in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach.

In the end, Slovenia essayed a masterful performance, defeating France, 95-78, at the Helsinki Arena in Helsinki, Finland.

Dragic finished the game with 22 points, eight assists and three rebounds on 5-10 shooting (2-4 from the three-point area) for Slovenia.

Doncic added 15 points with three assists and nine rebounds. Former NBA player Anthony Randolph had a quiet nine points and four rebounds but logged a team-high plus 24.

Former San Antonio Spurs Nando De Colo led France with 16 points. Boris Diaw, who played for the Utah Jazz last season, added 13 points for France. Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic was held to 11 points while the former NBA player Kevin Seraphin added 12 points for France.

Round of 16 schedule

With Slovenia finishing on top of Group A, Dragic and company will face the Group B fourth place finisher, which could be Georgia or Ukraine, on September 9. Georgia, led by Zaza Pachulia of the Golden State Warriors, finished the group stage 2-3. Ukraine, on the other hand, has a 1-3 record and is playing Israel as of press time.

France finished the group stage play with a disappointing 3-2 slate and will meet Germany in the round of 16 on September 9. Germany, bannered by Dennis Schroder of the Atlanta Hawks, finished in second place in Group B behind Lithuania.

Slovenia will continue to lean on their star point guard Dragic and the rising star Doncic as they vie for a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in China on 2019. Dragic is currently leading all scorers in the 2017 FIBA EuroBasket with 24.4 points per game. Dragic is also averaging 5.2 assists against only 2.2 turnovers per game.

Slovenia could meet top seeded Spain in the Semifinals barring any upsets in the round of 16 and the quarterfinal matches. The top 6 finishers in this year’s EuroBasket will automatically qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.