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History how Doncic leads Slovenia to the first Olympic basketball place

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Photo by Fiba

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic scored 31 points Sunday to lead Slovenia to a 96-85 victory over Lithuania, propelling his home country to its first Olympic basketball tournament.

Doncic, 22, also had 11 rebounds and 13 assists to record a triple-double. He was named MVP of the Olympic qualifying tournament, held in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Because Slovenia did not qualify for the 2019 FIBA โ€‹โ€‹World Cup, the country had to enter the last-chance tournament to earn a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Games, which begin later this month.

Doncic’s boss, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, was one of the first people to congratulate him and all of Slovenia on the “big win.”

Slovenia’s victory had to be a marvel in Lithuania. The national team has been an international powerhouse since the country separated from the Soviet Union and first competed as an independent nation at the Barcelona Games in 1992.

Lithuania’s nearly 30-year streak at the Olympics was the longest of any European nation. Lithuania joined the United States as the only men’s basketball teams to reach the quarterfinals of the Olympics from Barcelona.

The Lithuanian team won the bronze medal in 1992, the first of three consecutive places.

The Lithuanian roster included Doncic’s NBA teammates Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas.

The Mavericks were eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games in the first round of the NBA playoffs, and after that, Doncic turned his attention to an Olympic spot. On Saturday he was asked if he preferred to win an NBA championship or a gold medal.

โ€œI would say a gold medal with Slovenia. You play for your country and that’s something, โ€Doncic said. “But I wouldn’t mind both of them.”

Slovenia is in Group C at the Olympics, along with Argentina, Japan and Spain. Donic and his teammates will start July 26 against Argentina, whose roster includes guards Luca Vildoza of the New York Knicks and Facundo Campazzo of the Denver Nuggets.

Doncic, a two-time NBA pick, averaged 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists in 66 regular-season games with the Mavericks in 2020-21. He averaged 35.7 points in seven postseason games.

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