COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — The bus that was hired to take Slovenia to its opening game of the EuroBasket tournament never arrived at the team hotel Thursday.
The defending European champions didn’t panic then. And they didn’t panic when they were in trouble late in the game, either.
Mike Tobey scored six of his 24 points in a late run that put Slovenia ahead to stay, and the reigning EuroBasket winners opened defense of their title by topping Lithuania 92-85 in a Group B game Thursday.
Goran Dragic had 19 points for Slovenia, and Luka Doncic finished with 14 points and 10 assists.
“We were a little bit nervous because before the game, you want to be focused on the game,” Dragic said of the no-bus issue, which the team solved by hiring a few taxi cabs for a very cramped ride to the arena.
Thursday marked the first day of the tournament. There are 24 teams in the field, broken down into four groups of six. The top four teams in each group will advance to the knockout stage in Berlin, starting Sept. 10 and going through the title game on Sept. 18.
Lithuania led 78-73 around the midway mark of the fourth quarter, before Slovenia — which won the last EuroBasket tourney in 2017, probably the tiny nation’s greatest sports moment — went on a 15-3 run.
Tobey had three consecutive field goals for Slovenia, two of them assisted by Doncic, and Dragic’s 3-pointer with 2:37 left put Slovenia up 85-81.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Dragic said. “Especially because it feels like we were playing in Lithuania. They have a lot of supporters who came and who cheered for them. … We only focused on EuroBasket and tried to start the tournament with a win. We brought a lot of guts and a lot of effort.”
Mindaugas Kuzminskas led Lithuania with 19 points. Marius Grigonis had 18, Lukas Lekavicius scored 14 and Domantas Sabonis added 10. Jonas Valanciunas finished with nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
NOWITZKI JERSEY RETIRED
Dirk Nowitzki’s No. 14 jersey was retired by Germany in a ceremony before the Germany-France game in Cologne.
Nowitzki is the first German player to receive that honor. Among the many friends who flew in for the event: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and coach Jason Kidd.
Doncic — who took over for Nowitzki as Dallas’ superstar player — also watched the ceremony, which took place shortly after the Slovenia-Lithuania game ended.
GERMANY 76, FRANCE 63
Perhaps fueled by that Nowitzki ceremony, the host Germans closed the third quarter on a 19-4 run to take control and knock off one of the pre-tournament favorites.
Johannes Thiemann scored 14 for Germany, which got 13 apiece from Maodo Lo and Niels Giffey, plus 11 from Dennis Schroder.
Guerschon Yabusele scored 18 for France. Rudy Gobert finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, but Evan Fournier was held to only seven points on 2-for-10 shooting.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 95, HUNGARY 85
Jusuf Nurkic and Dzanan Musa each scored 19 points, and Bosnia and Herzegovina used a 10-0 run in the final minutes to pull away from Hungary.
John Roberson scored 18 points for the winners. Szilard Benke led all scorers with 20 points for Hungary.
SPAIN 114, BULGARIA 87
At Tbilisi, Georgia, Lorenzo Brown scored 17 points in 17 minutes, Willy Hernangomez added 16 and Spain — winners of bronze at the last EuroBasket in 2017 — cruised in its opening game.
Rudy Fernandez finished with 14 points for Spain, which placed seven players in double figures.
Aleksandar Vezenkov had game highs of 26 points and 11 rebounds for Bulgaria.
TURKEY 72, MONTENEGRO 68
Shane Larkin had 18 points, Cedi Osman had 15 and Turkey outscored Montenegro 7-0 in the final 62 seconds to pull out a win.
Alperen Sengun scored 12 for Turkey, and Furkan Korkmaz had five of his nine points in that last-minute flurry.
Bojan Dubljevic scored 18 for Montenegro, which got 13 from Marko Simonovic. Montenegro got into the EuroBasket field as the replacement for Russia, which qualified for the tournament but was banned by FIBA in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
BELGIUM 79, GEORGIA 76, OT
Jonathan Tabu’s 3-pointer with 3 seconds left was the difference, as Belgium held off host Georgia.
Tabu and Jean-Marc Mwema each had 14 points for Belgium, while Ismael Bako scored 11 and Manu Lecomte added 10.
Alexander Mamukelashvili led Georgia with 18 points and 13 rebounds. He made a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left in overtime to tie the game.
Thaddus McFadden scored 17 and Goga Bitadze added 14 for Georgia.
Group C and Group D play begins. In Group C, at Milan, Ukraine plays Great Britain, Croatia faces Greece and Italy meets Estonia.
In Group D, at Prague, Israel meets Finland, Poland takes on the Czech Republic and reigning EuroBasket silver medalist Serbia plays the Netherlands.
All four groups — meaning all 24 teams — will be in action Saturday.
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