Sabonis, Lithuania Fall To Dončić, Slovenia In EuroBasket Opener
EuroBasket 2022 is underway, meaning that Sacramento Kings fans will get an early look at prized center Domantas Sabonis over the next two weeks.
Unfortunately for Sabonis and the rest of his Lithuanian teammates, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Dončić and longtime NBA veteran guard Goran Dragić combined to score 33 points during a 92-85 win for Slovenia on Thursday morning in Cologne, Germany.
Sabonis struggled during the losing effort, scoring 10 points (four-of-10 shooting from the field) to go along with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals over 25 minutes of action. The two-time All-Star had trouble controlling the basketball, leading all players with four turnovers and committing a game-high four personal fouls.
Although the Kings center didn’t have his A-game on Thursday, there are still plenty of opportunities ahead for Sabonis to turn things around as Lithuania will play four more games over the next week during EuroBasket’s group competition stage.
Great pass by Sabonis! pic.twitter.com/fjKAcixmog
— Sactown Sports 1140 (@Sactown1140) September 1, 2022
Slovenia remained in control for a majority of the first half as Dončić and Dragić combined for 18 points to lead their team to a 51-48 lead at the halftime break.
Sabonis struggled to get into a rhythm during the first half, scoring five points on two-of-five shooting while turning the ball over three times (12 minutes of playing time). Slovenia’s defense often doubled the Sacramento Kings center in the post, causing fits for the big as he would have to kick the ball out to the perimeter or force a field goal attempt in traffic.
It wasn’t just Sabonis’ struggles that plagued Lithuania during the first half, as the entire team turned the ball over nine times and allowed 14 points off of turnovers.
Much like the first half, Slovenia increased its lead back to multiple possessions during the third quarter before Lithuania battled back to cut the deficit to 69-67 heading into the fourth period.
The game would finally shift towards Lithuania as Sabonis dished out a flashy assist and scored in the post on back-to-back possessions to give his team its largest lead of the game at 78-73 with just over six minutes remaining. However, that lead would be short-lived, as Slovenia charged back to take an 85-81 lead with 2:37 left on the clock following Dragić’s third triple of the game.
If you're going to let Luka work in the paint, you're going to have a bad time.
— #EuroBasket 2022 (@EuroBasket) September 1, 2022
Trailing 86-81 with less than two minutes to go, Sabonis caught Dončić with an elbow that was determined as an offensive foul, giving Slovenia possession–and essentially sealing the game–as the late turnover was the cherry on top of a disaster of a final stretch of play for Lithuania.
Things seemed to take a turn for the worst when Sabonis was sent to the bench with 4:07 remaining and Lithuania leading by one point. With Sabonis on the sideline, Slovenia took advantage of the next two minutes by putting together a 7-3 run to take a four-point lead, one that they would not give up as Lithuania struggled to put successful offensive possessions together during the closing minutes.
Slovenia’s two-headed monster of Dončić and Dragić proved too much for Lithuania to handle as Dončić’s double-double (12 points and 10 assists) and Dragić’s 19-point outing (eight-of-14 from the field) complimented leading scorer Mike Tobey’s game-high 24-point performance.
Lithuania’s twin tower duo of Sabonis and New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valančiūnas (nine points, four-of-10 shooting, 12 rebounds) were taken out of the game as Slovenia controlled the paint, outscoring their opponents 50-34 in the key.
Sabonis will look to shake off his rough EuroBasket debut on Saturday morning when Lithuania faces three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year award winner Rudy Gobert and France at 8:45 am PST.
Sactown Sports 1140 will be covering Sacramento Kings centers Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania) and Alex Len (Ukraine)’s EuroBasket performances over the next two weeks! Be sure to continue to stay locked in on all of our social media channels and SactownSports.com