The 2020 Olympic Men’s Basketball Tournament, featuring 38 players from the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup playing key roles for their countries, continued with first-round games on Monday at Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan. Two games to open Group C were scheduled, and the first of them delivered a smashing debut at the Olympics by Slovenia. Later on Monday, defending World Cup champion Spain did not find much trouble to defeat Japan.

Group C: Slovenia, Spain get convincing wins

In its long-awaited first Olympic ever as an independent country, Slovenia proved that it means business in Tokyo by storming past Argentina, the silver medalist at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, with a resounding 100-118 victory that ended up looking closer on the scoreboard than it did on the court. Luka Doncic, the former EuroLeague MVP, added to his list of precocious achievements by scoring 48 points, the most in any Olympics game for more than 30 years, despite resting for the game’s last 5 minutes. Doncic sat down while still within striking distance of the single-game Olympics record of 55 points set by Oscar Schmidt of Brazil in 1988. He nonetheless tied for second-best in Olympics history, matching the 48 points scored by Australia’s Eddie Palubinskas in 1976. Doncic got a lot of help from a host of players set to star in the EuroCup next season. Klemen Prepelic added 22 points for the winners, while his Valencia Basket teammate Mike Tobey had 11 points and 14 rebounds. Former EuroLeague stars Luis Scola, with 23 points, and Facundo Campazzo, with 21, paced Argentina. Slovenia scored 30 points or more in three quarters, including both of the first two, by which time it held a 42-62 halftime lead and Doncic was up to 31 points. A 10-20 run after the break supplied a high lead of 52-82 that Argentina managed to whittle down, in large part because Doncic left the game with 4:32 to play and Slovenia leading 80-106.

Spain lived up to the expectations by downing Japan 77-88 in Group C. Former EuroLeague and EuroCup champion Ricky Rubio led the winners with 20 points and 9 assists. Victor Claver of Valencia Basket added 13 points, Marc Gasol had 12 while Alex Abrines of FC Barcelona got 11 for Spain. Rui Hachimura had 20 points for Japan, that managed to tie the game, 26-26, early in the second quarter. Spain did not panic, however, as Rubio, Abrines and former EuroLeague MVP Sergio Llull of Real Madrid each struck from downtown in a 0-19 run that broke the game open, 26-45. Spain boosted its margin to 28-48 at halftime and kept a double-digit margin almost all the way until the final buzzer, cruising to an important victory.

What’s ahead

All groups will rest on Tuesday. France and Czech Republic return to action in Group A on Wednesday by facing each other, while in Group B, Germany takes on Nigeria and Italy faces Australia. On Thursday, it’s Slovenia vs. Japan and Spain vs. Argentina – a rematch of the 2019 World Cup championship game – in Group C.

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