Foul with a 27-point deficit. Trying to score for the other team. All part of Olympic basketball qualification

Luka Doncic fouled an opponent to regain possession as Slovenia led by 27 points in the final seconds

Luka Doncic fouled an opponent to regain possession as Slovenia led by 27 points in the final seconds. Goga Bitadze tried to thwart Georgia – his own team – in regulation time by attempting to score in the opponent's basket as time expired. And the Philippines, trailing by three points in their game, had no interest in winning.

And that's the point: all of these pieces made a lot of sense.

The tiebreaker scenarios in Thursday's Olympic qualifying tournament matches resulted in some rather unusual decisions not seen in most games.

“Yes, it was a bit strange,” said Gregor Horvat from Slovenia. “But that's basketball.”

Let us explain:

Slovenia-New Zealand

Slovenia needed to win by 10 points to reach the semi-finals and by 29 points to finish first in their group. That would have almost certainly avoided Saturday's semi-final in Piraeus and prevented them from meeting hosts Greece.

The first task was completed: Slovenia was leading by 27 points with 17 seconds left, so their progress was certain. But Luka Doncic was determined to take first place and fouled New Zealander Shea Ili, who scored one of two free throws and reduced the lead to 26 points.

Doncic had a good chance to make a three-pointer from the corner that would have given him the 29-point victory and the group decider, but the ball bounced off the rim with about two seconds left as time expired.

He could only laugh. Slovenia won 104-78 and Doncic finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists – an extraordinary performance, but his teammates good-naturedly reproached him afterward.

“I mean, he missed the last shot,” Horvat said. “No, I'm just kidding. It's incredible to have a player like that. He gives us extra confidence and it's so much easier to play.”


To advance, the Philippines only had to win by any margin or lose by 18 points or less.

Therefore, in the final moments, they seemed quite willing to accept defeat.

The Philippines had the ball as time ran out, trailing by three points and essentially trying to play down the clock – but they made no attempt to tie the game as the bigger goal of reaching the semifinals of the tournament in Riga, Latvia lay ahead of them. Georgia needed to win by 19 points to advance and that could only happen if they pulled off a miracle run in overtime.

“We couldn't go to overtime,” said Filipino coach Tim Cone. “We just didn't want to give them an opportunity to extend their lead in overtime.”

Georgia committed a foul with about three seconds left – something teams leading at the end of a game would never do intentionally under normal circumstances – and sent Chris Newsome to the line for the Philippines. Newsome made the first free throw and missed the second.

“I should have let him hold the ball and just not let him shoot the second free throw because that would have been a violation,” Cone said. “That would have been the smart move. I didn't notice it, I didn't think about it. We were lucky we didn't have to go into overtime.”

Goga Bitadze grabbed the rebound and actually tried to get into the Philippines' basket, but his shot missed.

Georgia won the game 96:94, but saw its Olympic hopes end. And the Philippines lost, but celebrated their entry into the semifinals.

“It was an impossible mission today,” said Georgia coach Aleksander Dzikic.


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