BELGRADE – Italy, Slovenia and Germany took three of the last four available spots in the men’s Olympic basketball tournament in games from July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo after winning their respective qualifying events on Sunday.
The Italians stunned 2016 silver medalist Serbia 102-95, European champion Slovenia beat Lithuania 96-85 and Germany beat Brazil 75-64. Greece and the Czech Republic will meet later on Sunday to decide the last available spot.
Serbia did not have the NBA regular season MVP Nikola Jokic, who withdrew from the six-team qualifying tournament due to fatigue, and the home team missed the Denver Nuggets center very much.
The Italians built a 25-point lead midway through the third quarter after scoring nine 3-pointers in the first half and then held on to a late Serbian rally to reach their first Olympics since Athens 2004, when they won the silver medal.
Guard Nicolo Mannion led the Italians with 24 points, Achille Polonara added 22 and Simone Fontecchio contributed 21 as Serbia’s porous defense couldn’t cope with the long-range shots and offensive rebounds from their rivals.
Having won the European title in 2017, Slovenia advanced to the Olympics for the first time as an independent nation thanks to an effervescent performance from Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic, who accumulated 31 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.
After a balanced first half, Slovenia withdrew in the second and silenced local Lithuanian fans in Kaunas when 22-year-old Doncic pulled all the strings to win the tournament’s MVP award.
“I don’t care about the MVP award because what matters is that we won the tournament and made it to the Olympics for the first time,” Doncic said delightedly in an on-court interview.
“Like all children in Slovenia, I too dreamed all my life of being in the Olympics. We are a small nation but we have a lot of potential and we have made history here. “
Germany eliminated host Croatia in Split on Saturday and followed up with an excellent defensive performance against Brazil, leading throughout the low-scoring contest.
Moritz Wagner stood out with 28 points for the Germans, the game’s high, while Brazilian guard Vitor Benite scored just nine at the other end after he was limited to making just three of 18 shots from the field.
The Czechs, who beat host Canada 103-101 in Saturday’s thrilling semi-final, face Greece in Victoria at 2305 GMT for the last available spot.
Champions United States, France, Iran, Australia, Nigeria, Argentina and Spain qualified earlier along with hosts Japan, who were given an automatic spot.
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