The miraculous run by Luka Doncic and the Slovenian men’s national basketball team at the Olympics will now have to pivot for bronze.
Slovenia was just one basket away from almost certainly locking up a win against France when Klemen Prepelic, who had been on fire with seven points in the fourth quarter, went up for a layup with four seconds remaining in the Olympic semifinal game.
But Nicolas Batum met him at the rim, swatting the ball against the glass, allowing it to rebound into the hands of Rudy Gobert, who sealed the win for France on Thursday.
France will now move on to face the United States in the gold-medal game on Friday night, while Slovenia will face Australia aiming to leave Tokyo with the bronze medal.
Doncic finished with a triple-double of 16 points, 18 assists and 10 rebounds as he fell to 17-1 in his international playing career. He shot 5-for-18 from the field.
It looked for a moment like Slovenia might have one last bit of magic left in their Olympic men’s basketball tournament run.
The Slovenians had been outscored 29-21 in the third quarter by France to fall down 71-65, but managed to tie the game with 3:07 left on a layup from Mike Tobey. Just over 10 seconds later, France’s Nando De Colo made a layup to give France the lead again and with 59 seconds remaining, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot made a 3-pointer to extend France’s lead out to 90-85.
But Slovenia wasn’t done. Prepelic made his second of two free throws to make it a 90-86 game five seconds later and made a 3-pointer with 34 seconds remaining in the game. Then, De Colo missed a layup that Doncic rebounded, setting Prepelic and Slovenia up for a final offensive possession, during which the block took place.
It didn’t help that Doncic injured his left wrist during the third quarter when he chased down a loose ball out of bounds and crashed into plexiglass. The injury clearly deterred him from wanting to shoot more in the quarter as he attempted only two shots in the fourth quarter and none in the final four minutes of the game.
This was a game where Slovenia showed its depth as five players reached double-digit points. Tobey led with 23, Prepelic had 17, Doncic had 16, Jaka Blazic had 14 and Vlatko Cancar had 11.
But the defensive abilities of Gobert and a pair of 20-plus-point performances from Evan Fournier (23) and De Colo (25) proved too much to overcome for Slovenia.