Game Hero: In a crystal-clear declaration of intentions, Goran Dragic converted an 'and-1' play in transition with 6:49 still to play in the first quarter, scoring all of Slovenia's first 11 points in the game. He was stratospheric during the first 25 minutes, when Slovenia dominated with an iron first and finished with 28 points, adding five rebounds and four assists.
Stats Don't Lie: Greece came into the game with the tournament's second-leading offence, averaging 78.5 points-per-game on the back of 57.3% two-point shooting. They went 2-for-11 from two-point range in the first quarter and only shot 28% from the floor during a catastrophic first half.
|Goran Dragic had every reason to smile, having a tournament personal-best 28 points on Saturday night as Slovenia confirmed their quarter-final spot|
Goran Dragic delivered on Saturday his best EuroBasket 2013 display so far, collecting 28 points as hosts Slovenia held off Greece 73-65 to secure a quarter-final berth.
Greece claimed their second and last lead in the game, 4-3, on Spanoulis' fourth point after approximately one minute of action.
The 31-year-old Greek star would go on to score only a further three points in the entire first half.
"We closed the paint and stopped Spanoulis," Slovenia guard Domen Lorbek said after the game.
"I think [Nebojsa] Joksimovic did a great job on him, we managed to lower his percentages and that was a key to the game, together with the rebounds."
With Goran Dragic roaming free on the offensive end, Slovenia grabbed their first double-digit lead 2:25 from the end of the opening quarter, 19-8, on two Jaka Blazic free throws.
"We played a great game with high energy, we had three guys on Spanoulis so that he is always tired," said Zoran Dragic, confirming the game plan afterwards.
Goran Dragic drilled his third three-pointer 4:57 from the end of the first half, his 16th point in the game, to give Slovenia a 37-22 lead.
Greece called a time-out and when play resumed, Joksimovic dispossessed Spanoulis and Zoran Dragic threw the ball to his brother, who darted down the court to make it 39-22 with a lay-up, Slovenia's biggest lead in the first 20 minutes.
"It was more difficult than it seemed, we controlled the rebounds and run on the fast break and Goran Dragic was unbelievable today, they couldn't stop him with anything," Lorbek said.
Slovenia led 43-27 at the half-time interval on a buzzer-beating Zoran Dragic put-back shot.
|"I think the main thing was our defence and that we could run and keep the pace up" - Zoran Dragic|
They had out-rebounded Greece 27-14 and scored 13 points in transition at that point; Greece had scored no points on the fast-break.
"I think the main thing was our defence and that we could run and keep the pace up," Zoran Dragic said.
Slovenia kept pushing after the break and grabbed their biggest lead all night 3:58 from the end of the third, 60-34, on a Goran Dragic lay-up - on the fast-break, once again.
But the Greeks eased the game into half-court possessions and forced Slovenia to a three-minute dry spell until the end of the period.
A Spanoulis triple with 3:26 in the third sparked a 10-0 run that saw the Greeks reduce the gap to 62-46 at the third buzzer.
"We struggled a little bit from that point on because we didn't play our set until the end, they imposed the pace and we are not used to playing calm, we like to play fast," Zoran Dragic explained.
Greece continued to chip away at the gap as Spanoulis scored five points in quick succession and then was fouled on a three-point attempt 5:46 from the final buzzer, sinking all three free throws to reduce the gap to 64-55.
Kostas Kaimakoglou came up with a stop on defence and threw the ball down the court to the galloping Antonis Fotsis, who scored with a lay-up 1:59 from the final buzzer to reduce the difference to its lowest value since the first quarter, 68-62.
After both sides misfired on three-point attempts Greece entered the final minute with the chance to make it a one-possession game, but Begic's miraculous interception was all Goran Dragic needed to put the outcome to rest with his lay-up.
Slovenia's victory means that Italy, together with Croatia and the hosts of course, have also secured their spot in the quarter-finals from Group F, while Finland have now been knocked out of the race.