Tokyo Olympics: Luka Doncic scores 48 points in historic debut en route to Slovenia’s first-ever Olympic win

Unless you decided to stay up past midnight to watch the Slovenian men’s basketball team early Monday morning, you probably missed Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic putting on an absolute show to carry Slovenia to a 118-100 win over Argentina. The third-year NBA star finished the game with 48 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in his Olympic debut, lifting Slovenia to their first-ever win at the Games.

Doncic looked like a man amongst boys against Argentina, using his size and strength to get whatever he wanted in the paint, and using his patented step-back 3-pointer to sink shot after shot from long range. In the first half alone he tallied 31 points, helping Slovenia to a 20-point lead after two quarters of action.

Doncic barreled his way into the paint for easy buckets around the rim, flicked behind-the-back passes to teammates for flashy assists, fought in the paint for boards and even got a block toward the end of the game with the win already in hand. It wasn’t too dissimilar from the what we’ve seen from the 22-year-old All-Star in his three seasons with the Mavericks, earning him the moniker “Luka Magic” for his dazzling play. 

But this performance was more than just another high-scoring Doncic performance. His 48 points tied him for the second-most points scored in an Olympic basketball game ever, sharing that feat with Australia’s Eddie Palubinskas, who also put up 48 points against Mexico in 1976. If the game was any closer, there’s a very good chance that Oscar Schmidt’s 33-year record for most points scored in an Olympic basketball game (55 points with Brazil) would have fallen easily. That’s how scorching hot Doncic was against Argentina. 

In fact, Slovenia’s coaching staff gave him an opportunity to get the record. When Doncic checked out of the game with over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Slovenian coaches gave him the option to continue playing to chase that record. But the two-time All-NBA player declined the offer, instead relishing in getting his home country’s first win on the Olympic stage.

“I don’t care about records,” Doncic said after the game. “We got a win, and that’s what we came here for.”

Not getting the record didn’t stop Argentina’s head coach from heaping praise on Doncic, calling him the “best player in the world.”

“He is the best player in the world, including the NBA,” Sergio Hernandez said. “If there was any doubt in my mind, there is no doubt any more. He is the best player in the world, and it’s an honor to be there in the game with him.”

Considering the shocking loss the U.S. suffered to France in its opening game of the Olympics, it’s not ridiculous to say Doncic is playing the best basketball of anyone right now. But Doncic has never cared about the individual praise or accolades. Slovenian team captain Edo Muric said postgame that Doncic asked to be pulled from the game when it was out of reach, saying “I have enough, let others have it as well.”

Making the Olympics alone was already a monumental feat for a Slovenian country that has never qualified in the history of the Games, something that Doncic once again played a huge hand in. Slovenia beat Lithuania in a FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament to get a ticket to Tokyo, where Doncic put up 31 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in the final game.

Looking ahead, with Slovenia’s win, it puts the country at the top of its group tied with Spain, which beat Japan in its Olympic opener. If Doncic can carry Slovenia to a top-two finish in Group C, it will guarantee a spot in the Final Phase of the tournament, putting it within reach of competing for a medal. The competition is stiff as France, Australia, Italy, Spain and, of course, the U.S. are all medal contenders in this tournament. Yet if Doncic’s Olympic debut taught us anything, it’s that if he’s on your team you have a chance to win. 

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