Here it is, a game we have all been waiting for, the finals of EuroBasket 2017 between Serbia and Slovenia. It’s without the doubt the biggest basketball game this year and the fact that we are seeing Slovenia, a team that almost no one expected to come so far to the finals, only adds to the excitement of a match of such an importance.
First, let’s look at Serbian national team. Serbia has started off this years EuroBasket competition in group D with Latvia, Russia, Turkey, Belgium and Great Britain. With the final record of 4-1 Serbia finished 1st in the group, beating every opponent except Russia (75:72) after a nail-biting finish of the match, that could easily go the other way if Serbia managed to convert their free throws. Anyway, Serbia still got into the Play-Offs, where they met Hungary as their 1st opponent. In 1/8 finals Serbia met Hungary, and they won with a reasonable margin of 8 points (86:78). Next up was Italy in Quarter-Finals, who held on ok, for the 1st quarter (17:18). Serbia outscored Italy by 10 points in the 2nd quarter and added another 5 points to their lead in 4th, whereas 3rd quarter ended with each team scoring 15 points. With that, they finished the match with a comfortable lead of 16 points (67:83). In the Semi-Finals Serbia met a well-known opponent from the group stage, Russia. But this time, Serbia did not make the same mistake as and managed to hold the tempo of the match in their hands, not once letting go of the lead accumulated in the 1st quarter. Serbia won the match by 8 points in the end (79:87) and got their ticket to the finals, where they will meet Slovenia.
Slovenia, a team that had little to lose and a lot to prove has deservedly got a spot in their 1st finals in International Basketball competition. Their road to the finals started in qualifications in group E with Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Kosovo, where they hadn’t lost a match and left the group with all 12 points. In the group stages, they were placed in Group A with Finland, France, Greece, Poland, and Iceland, where they yet again had not lost a match. At this point it was clear they were here to prove their worth, but no one could imagine where they would end up. In 1/8 finals Slovenia played against Ukraine, who they met in the qualifying matches and won by a huge margin of 24 points (79:55). In the Quarter-Finals, Slovenia met with Latvia, who was a favorite by many but did not live up to their name. Slovenia started that match with an 11 point lead by the end of 1st quarter, but Latvia prepared an answer in the 2nd quarter, outscoring Slovenia by 15 points. So the teams went into 3rd quarter with a score of (51:55). The 3rd quarter was once again in Slovenia favor, outscoring Latvia by 14 points, thus shifting the lead into their hands (76:66). Last quarter was highly entertaining and really close, but Slovenia managed to hold on to their lead with great defensive work and superb shooting. The match ended with a final score of 103:97. Semi-Finals was named by many as a final before finals, as Slovenia met with Spain, a huge favorite to win the competition. Despite being an underdog, Slovenia played near-perfect basketball, surprisingly outscoring Spain from the 3 point line. In addition, they managed to shut down one of the most feared attacks in Europe, brothers Gasol. Slovenia started off great, accumulating a 4 point lead at the halftime, but they did not stop there, and they once again outscored Spain in the 3rd quarter (12:24). At this point it was clear Spain needs some kind of a miracle to come back, but that miracle never came. Slovenia won by 20 points (72:92), crushing Spain and with that got an opportunity to play in finals for the 1st time in their history.
Verdict & Prediction
Slovenia has proven time and time again they are here to get the gold and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. Of course, we can not underestimate Serbia as they are and have been a strong team for quite some time now. But to be fair, Slovenia has had a tough road up to the finals and despite being an underdog in both Quarter-Finals as well as Semi-finals they proved to everyone they are a “tough cookie to beat”. Serbia needs to find a way to shut down Doncic and Dragic from the 3 point line and protect the paint at the same time. Will they manage to do so? We will see, but in my eyes, Slovenia is one of (if not the) best team in this tournament and with a historical moment in front of them, they will not go down easily.
Prediction: Slovenia to win
Odds: 1.93 Pinnacle