Storybook Ending for Dragić

While Goran Dragić has been quite productive in the NBA, his international career is nothing to sneeze at. Since his debut on the Slovenian National Team in 2006, Dragić has played in numerous tournaments across the globe and has earned his keep with each passing year. In fact, he’s been the team captain since 2014.

That said, all good things must come to an end.

Leading up to EuroBasket 2017, the Slovenian announced that he would retire from international play once the tournament concluded. Dragić certainly made the most of it, as he ended his playing career overseas with a gold medal and the MVP award.

Relive each game of his storybook ending below.

Group Play

August 31 vs. Poland: 90-81 Win

Dragić vs. Poland

Photo Credit: Hendrik Osula

Dragić kicked off Group play with a bang, as he led Slovenia with 30 points on 12-of-23 shooting, four assists and three steals. To no one’s surprise, the guard routinely got into the paint, finished at the rim and was an absolute terror in transition.

“It was a really tough game for us,” Dragić said. “It’s always tough to win the first game of the tournament. We know what the Polish team is going to bring, and our coaches did an amazing job to prepare us for this game. You know, we played ok. It was not our best game, but we’re happy with the win.”

Sept. 2 vs. Finland: 81-78 Win

Dragić vs. Finland

Photo Credit: Hendrik Osula

Dragić put on a show against Finland in front of a raucous crowd at Helsinki Arena. After going off in the first half with a mix of drives and jumpers, he hit two clutch free throws with 33 seconds left in the game to give Slovenia a lead it would never relinquish. Dragić led the team with 29 points on 8-of-16 shooting and also accumulated five assists, four boards and two steals.

“I mean, tough game, emotional game. Finland, they’re a really good team. They demonstrated that today, and even the first game against France. The fans were unbelievable,” Dragić said.

“I feel like we played good in the first half, the second half ok. Our defense was ok, but they were making some tough contested shots. They made 14 threes, so that’s huge. But in the end, we dug deep and it was all team effort, especially Anthony [Randolph] did an amazing job on that last possession with the steal and finish in transition with the dunk.”

Sept. 3 vs. Greece: 78-72 Win

Dragić vs. Greece

Photo Credit: Ville Vuorinen

After a little bit of a slow start, Dragić kicked things into high gear in the fourth quarter with nine points, including some extremely difficult finishes at the rim. In all, the 31-year-old tallied 20 points, four assists and three rebounds.

Sept. 5 vs. Iceland: 102-75 Win

Dragić vs. Iceland

Photo Credit: Ville Vuorinen

While Iceland came out hot seeking its first win of the tournament, Dragić answered the call in the second quarter and made a living at the charity stripe. Throughout the contest, the guard wreaked havoc on both ends of the floor and led the team with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, five assists and a plus-34 rating.

Sept. 6 vs. France: 95-78 Win

Dragić vs. France

Photo Credit: Ville Vuorinen

Quite simply, Dragić got off to a red-hot start against France and never looked back. In addition to mixing things up in the first half with long-range jumpers and attacks to the basket, the crafty veteran also set up his teammates supremely well all afternoon. In fact, he led Slovenia with 22 points and eight assists to ensure a perfect 5-0 record in Group Play.

“I think Goran is on a special, high level. He’s showed that he’s one of the best players in this EuroBasket,” Luka Dončić said about Dragić. “He’s a true leader, and we are so happy to have him here because he can do everything. Not just scoring, he can [make] us play like a team. He’s the captain, he’s the leader and everybody can learn so much stuff [from] him.”

Round of 16

Sept. 9 vs. Ukraine: 79-55 Win

Dragić vs. Ukraine

Photo Credit: Milad Payami

Although Dragić didn’t score all that much against Ukraine, he helped his team get out in transition for some easy buckets. In turn, that led to a double-digit lead for a majority of the contest. The guard finished with five points, four rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes of action.

Quarterfinals

Sept. 12 vs. Latvia: 103-97 Win

Dragić vs. Latvia

Photo Credit: Ulf Duda

What. A. Game.

Both Slovenia and Latvia came into the contest boasting high-octane offenses, and they certainly lived up to the billing in the Quarterfinals. Dragić set the tone early on with 13 points in the first quarter, but Kristaps Porziņģis kept answering back for Latvia. As the game progressed however, Dragić started to get out in transition and attacked the basket a bit more. That aggression culminated in a fantastic finger roll that put Slovenia up 97-92 with 30.7 seconds left. In all, Dragić had 26 points, eight assists, six rebounds and a plus-21 rating.

“Huge success for our country, for coaches, for players,” Dragić said. “I would like to congratulate Latvia. Hell of a team. They demonstrated that they could come back quick, especially with those long threes that they were making. It was a tough, physical game. We knew it was going to be like that. But we did an amazing job, especially defensively. It was all collective team effort, and I would like to congratulate my teammates and my coaches for doing an amazing job.”

Semifinals

Sept. 14 vs. Spain: 92-72 Win

Dragić vs. Spain

Photo Credit: Milad Payami

Even though Slovenia had a tough task on its hands with the reigning EuroBasket champions on the other side, that didn’t deter Dragić’s team one bit. Thanks to a balanced attack (five double-figure scorers) and a barrage from downtown (14-of-25) that neutralized the Gasol brothers inside, Slovenia came away with a convincing win. Dragić totaled 15 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“What a game. Historic game for our nation,” Dragić said.

“Spain, they’re a really tough team. But all the credit goes to the team [Slovenia]. We didn’t [get scared]. We said ‘we need to play our game’. We need to run, we need to attack, be aggressive. You know, when you play with confidence, then even some shots that usually you don’t make, you make. Hell of a win for us, but the most important thing is our strategy was really [good]. Coaches, they did an unbelievable job to prepare us [for] how we’re going to play against a super team like Spain, and we executed [amazingly].”

Final

Sept. 17 vs. Serbia: 93-85 Win

Dragić vs. Serbia

Photo Credit: Milad Payami

Dragić wasted little time in the biggest game of his international career, as he simply went off in the first half against Serbia. From nifty finishes in transition to shots from the perimeter, the guard had his entire repertoire on display. In fact, he scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting before halftime.

Talk about making a statement.

As the game progressed, Dragić attacked the basket a bit more in the half court and continued to put pressure on the defense. In turn, he ended up with a game-high 35 points on 12-of-22 shooting to go along with seven boards.

While he helped Slovenia respond to adversity when Dončić went down with an injury in the third quarter, Klemen Prepelič, Anthony Randolph and Gašper Vidmar also made some huge plays down the stretch to make sure Slovenia won the gold medal.

“Without [our fans], this would not be realistic,” Dragić said. “They came to support us. We know that it’s really far, Ljubljana from Istanbul, but there were like 6,000 Slovenian fans, so it’s an unbelievable feeling and I would like to thank them once again.

And of course, Slovenia, we’re coming back home as European champions.”

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