Before around 2,000 Slovenian fans in the stands, many or even all them staying and chanting to them long after the match ended, Goran Dragic outdueled Luka Doncic in the first headtohead meeting involving your just two Slovenians now in the NBA.
“It felt like we were at Ljubljana,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, talking about this Slovenian capital.
Dragic had 23 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his next career triple double to greatly help the Heat return to eighth place in the Eastern Conference by topping the Dallas Mavericks 105-99 during Thursday night.
“He’s the old don and Luka may be your new up-and-coming,” Wade said about Dragic. “Therefore it was really great to see him play that way.”
Doncic scored 19 points for the Mavericks, but missed 12 of his 18 shots. When it was over, Doncic and Dragic — mates on the Slovenian club that won the European tournament two summers past — exchanged hugs and jerseys. Miami swept the season series by the Mavs, however, Dragic didn’t play at Heat win at Dallas.
“It had been good. Honestly maybe for the first time in my career I had been nervous before the match,” Doncic said. “It had been different for me, however, it had been a particular night.”
Dallas led by 11 points at the first half and shot a 59-49 lead in to the lockerroom after a tip dunk by Dorian Finney Smith be at the halftime buzzer. But Wade hit a jumper with 1:11 left to put Miami on top for good, Doncic overlooked a long 3-pointer on the next Dallas trip down the ground along with Dragic extended Miami’s lead to 100-97 with a nifty up and under move on the consequent Heat possession.
With that, the building roared. The Miami fans may have even been drowned out. Countless Slovenia jerseys were spotted in the racks, along with scarves bearing the nation’s name, all for very good reason.
They were there for Dragic vs. Doncic.
They got a series, too.
“To buy a ticket, to fly from another continent here and to keep here and encourage usit’s something fantastic,” Dragic said, until he went back out, addressed the crowd 30minutes following the match and also signed autographs.
The Associated Press contributed to the report.