Italy, Poland, and Germany pulled off three massive shockers in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022, ending the phenomenal tournament runs of arguably the three best players in the world.
All-NBA first-teamers Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo put up impressive games throughout EuroBasket 2022, but their individual greatness were not enough to carry their nations to the finish line.
Poland, which doesn’t have a single current NBA player on its roster, upset defending EuroBasket champion Slovenia, 90-87, in the quarterfinals. Slovenia tried to make a late push but the comeback attempt fell short when Doncic fouled out with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter. The Dallas Mavericks All-Star point guard finished with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field, 11 rebounds, and seven assists.
Doncic needed an injection to get through the game and has been dealing with injuries throughout the tournament. But he told the Associated Press that injuries wasn’t the reason for his subpar game. “I played terrible,” Doncic said. “I let my team down. I let the whole country who was supporting us down. I’ve got to look at this game and be better.”
Poland built a 23-point lead in the second quarter and led 58-39 at halftime. Slovenia made a big push in the third quarter to get to within one point. But Poland regained control and outscored Slovenia 21-7 during a crucial stretch in the fourth quarter and held on for the win.
Italy’s big stunner came at the start of the knockout stage when it eliminated top-seeded Serbia — led by two-time NBA MVP Jokic — in the round of 16. Italy defeated Serbia 94-86 despite a 32-point, 13-rebound game from Jokic. The Italians also pulled off the upset without their head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco, who was ejected in the third quarter and went out in style with one of the more spirited exits you will ever see.
Serbia took an 11-point lead in the first quarter and pushed it to 14 points in the second quarter. But Italy came storming back and trimmed it to 61-57 with under 5 minutes left in the third quarter when Pozzecco left the court in tears after being ejected from the game with a second technical foul. The ejection ignited the Italians as they opened the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run to take an 82-70 lead and Serbia were unable to regain the momentum.
Italy’s miracle tournament run ended in the quarterfinals, losing to France 93-85. Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert led the way for France as he put up 19 points and 14 rebounds.
The Greek Freak’s time in EuroBasket ended in the quarterfinals. Greece fell to Germany 107-96 in Berlin. Antetokounmpo was ejected in the fourth quarter after being assessed with two unsportsmanlike fouls. The second unsportsmanlike foul occurred with just under five minutes remaining and Greece trailing by 14 points. The two-time NBA MVP and 2021 NBA champion hit Germany’s Daniel Theis (Boston Celtics) in the face as he wildly attempted to swipe a rebound. Giannis finished with 31 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes. Former L.A. Lakers guard Dennis Schroder led Germany with 26 points and eight assists.
There were some interesting matchups throughout pool competition.
New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas and Sacramento Kings power forward Domantas Sabonis led Lithuania to an 87-70 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was anchored by Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers). But the best pool-play matchup was between France and Slovenia. Doncic put on a show as he lifted Slovenia to an 88-82 over a stacked French national team, which featured three-time NBA defensive player of the year Gobert and New York Knicks guard Evan Fournier. Doncic dropped in 47 points, had seven rebounds and five assists. It was the most points scored in a single EuroBasket game in the last 65 years and the second-highest scoring game in the event’s history.
Serbia dominated its competition in Group D, which included some lightweights in the form of the Czech Republic, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, and Poland. Serbia went 5-0 and was barely tested in each pool play game winning by an average margin of 21 points. Jokic was his usual dominant self, averaging 19.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists in just 24 minutes per game.
Spain was the lone pool-play winner that advanced to the semifinals. The Spaniards defeated Finland 100-90 in the quarterfinals. Spain, ranked No. 2 in the FIBA world rankings, is loaded with international veterans, including Juancho Hernangomez (Toronto Raptors), Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans Pelicans), Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid).
Newly acquired Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen paced Finland with a game-high 28 points. The 7-foot forward also grabbed 11 rebounds and had two steals. Willy Hernangomez led the way for Spain with 27 points shooting 10-of-13 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
Juancho Hernangomez saved his best performance in the gold medal game as his 27 points powered Spain past France 88-76. Juancho’s brother, Willy, was named EuroBasket MVP.