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Luka Doncic Shines, Slovenia Falls to Lithuania at FIBA World Cup

Mavs superstar Luka Doncic competed with Slovenia lost to a Lithuania team led by Jonas Valanciunas at the 2023 FIBA World Cup in Manila.
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MANILA, Philippines — Luka Doncic competed with Slovenia against Jonas Valanciunas' Lithuania squad to maintain a pathway to earn fifth place at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. It was Lithuania that achieved the victory, 100-84.

After Bine Prepelic converted from beyond the arc at the 8:49 mark of the first quarter, Slovenia's 3-2 lead was the only advantage the team held for the remainder of the contest. Lithuania quickly answered back with a made 3-pointer of its own, then led for the reminder of the game. 

Lithuania led 33-21 at the end of the first quarter and led by as many as 15 points early in the second period. It was a struggle for Slovenia to consistently get stops defensively and string together enough production offensively to pull off a run to take control of the momentum throughout much of the game.

The clear priority for Lithuania was to keep the Dallas Mavericks superstar out of the paint by shrinking the floor. The priority was the same for Slovenia's defensive gameplan, setting up a situation where both teams can get clean looks from beyond the arc.

"We are challenged all the time, and what all the teams try to do is isolate Luka from the team," Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulic said. "Sometimes they trap, and sometimes they're standing deep inside. But there's a job we have, I think we are handling it pretty well. It's challenging for us.

"We tried some adjustments," Sekulic explained. "We saw the lineup we had in the second half, and we were somehow successful, but not as much as we wanted to."

Luka Doncic, Slovenia, FIBA World Cup

Both teams were hot from beyond the arc in the first half, but Lithuania's clear advantage in paint scoring proved to be a difference-making factor in leading 53-43 at the break. To put it into perspective, Doncic had 19 points and five rebounds to this point, with Slovenia shooting 9-22 from deep, but the team was outscored 22-to-4 in paint scoring. 

Doncic's night wasn't over despite there not being tangible rewards for achieving a victory. Slovenia continued to compete and a made 3-pointer by Tobey brought the team within four points (55-51) at the 7:42 mark of the third quarter. A run by Lithuania regained a double-figure (11-point) advantage with under four minutes remaining in the period. 

Doncic took a significant amount of 3-pointers with Lithuania switching in ball screen coverage as opposed to blitzing to get the ball out of his hands. He was hot early on, but cooled off significantly. With the team turning it over too often in the third quarter, it proved challenging to turn the game amount.

Lithuania established a game-high 23-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter, proving to be too much for Slovenia to overcome. Doncic was subbed out with 27.4 seconds remaining in regulation, while receiving an ovation from the Mall of Asia Arena crowd.

Doncic finished with 29 points, six rebounds, and two assists. However, he had five turnovers and shot just 7-21 from the floor, 4-13 from beyond the arc, and 11-16 on free throws. As for Lithuania, Valanciunas turned in an impressive performance to lead his team, with 24 points and 12 rebounds.

After losing against Lithuania, the best Slovenia can place is seventh, depending on the outcome of the team's final match in Manila.