Bosnians have more surprises ahead, hints Luka Doncic got tired

Donatas Urbonas
Senior Staff Writer
2022-09-04 19:34

The Bosnia and Hercegovina head coach Aziz Bekir suggested that after the win against the reigning champions Slovenia his team will get only better in the rest of the group stage.

Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

When they stayed four in one hotel room and didn't know if they would get money to do a trip to Estonia for the only scheduled preparation games this summer, this win against the reigning European champions looked so far away.

But it never really bothered this group that much. They were too united and focused on the main goal that looked improbable to others and brought them so much joy.

It was worth the grind.

Jusuf Nurkic

Jusuf  Nurkic
Position: PF, C
Age: 28
Height: 212 cm
Weight: 127 kg
Birth place: Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnians sent Luka Doncic and European champions to the locker room with their heads down 97-93 and turned the Lanxess arena court into a party floor to celebrate with their fans.

"This EuroBasket has been unbelievable for us. One thing I can say for sure is that it's very fun to play against these teams, one of the best teams in the world. Slovenia is an Olympic semifinalist. To play against those guys and compete against them is an unbelievable thing. And we put Bosnian basketball on the map right where it can be," Dzanan Musa was proud of this huge victory.

Musa had 22 points, five rebounds, and five assists on a historical night for Bosnian basketball.

On top of that, he stole the spotlight from the best player of his generation, Luka Doncic.

"Huge respect for him. He's my friend and one of the best players in the world. Hands down for him. I wish him nothing but the best in his career," Musa said.

"It's always fun to play against your friends, especially when they're on that level. To beat them, it's even more special," he couldn't stop smiling.

Did a new Madridista receive any advice from the former king of Real Madrid?

"I can't tell you what kind of advice I got from him. I will tell you more on a private basis," Musa laughed.

There was no advice from John Roberson's side, who poured in 7 three-pointers and scored 23 points.

"I don't have any advice to give. He's one of the greatest shooters in the game. He'll bounce back," Roberson smiled. Doncic finished the game with 16 points but went 0 of 8 beyond the arc.

Coach Aziz Bekir hinted that the fatigue might have affected Luka Doncic.

"That was the third game in four days for both teams. Both teams made Luka Doncic feel tired. He was tired. Musa, our captain or Nurkic, also were tired. We made so many mistakes in the first half. We gave away so many offensive rebounds..." the coach said in the press conference.

"I actually think the tiredness affected us even more than them. But most importantly, we played more as a team," he pointed out.

Captain Miralem Halilovic explained the unique chemistry that connects this special group of Bosnian players.

"During the preparation, when he had days off, we always were together. It was always all of us going for coffee, ice cream, or any other activities," Halilovic said.

"Before, we were always in groups. But especially in this preparation, we went all together whenever we went. For me, it was amazing and special. I believe these things can be important during tough moments. I think this group is special on and off the court."

According to Nanterre 92 big man, the biggest stars of the team Jusuf Nurkic, Dzanan Musa, and John Roberson, set the tone for the entire group.

"I think it's about guys on the top level like Nurkic, Musa, and Johny. They came to the preparation and saw guys who played in local leagues. Then it's about how they put their personality and ego to build on the same level with them. But if you came to our camp after seven days without knowing who is who, you couldn't say which player played for Real Madrid, NBA, and the Bosnian league," Halilovic said.

"Because we were joking, doing the same things, eating, riding bikes, or whatever. The most important thing is that everybody puts their egos and personalities aside and focuses on the team. And now it's showing the results," he concluded.

Although Slovenians were ahead more than half of the game, Bosnians never backed down and didn't let them run away by more than 8 points.

"It's belief. We believed that we could win. I think it's the first and the most important thing - believing that you can win," Roberson recalled.

"We feel we can play anybody. We are going to continue getting better and build our chemistry. I think our best basketball is ahead of us," he intrigued.

"We knew Slovenia is an incredible team, and it's going to be tough to beat them. But when we started the game, we saw we could play against them. Everything is possible against any team, as we showed against France, Hungary, and now Slovenia. We're proud of ourselves, and we think we can go far," Musa couldn't keep his excitement.

The second win in three games put Bosnians in the top four of the group of death. But the underdogs take nothing for granted.

"This is a crazy feeling just to be here. It's an honor and privilege. I'm just soaking it all in. It hasn't hit me yet. We have a job to do, and we're doing our job. That's where we're focused right now," a 33-year-old Roberson smiled.

"We have a lot of basketball to play. It's a tough group. Nothing has been given yet. It's early. We want to continue," he added.

"It feels unreal for us to be here with a route we went through and all the problems we had with tough preparation. This feels unreal to come to EuroBasket, win the first game, and now beat actual European champions in front of so many of our fans. It's unreal. I still can't process it. It feels amazing. Sorry coach, but it's for sure one of the biggest victories of history in basketball," the captain of the Bosnia and Hercegovina team Miralelm Halilovic said.

Coach Bekir was so exhausted from the intensity of the game and joyful emotions that he just wanted to get some rest and prepare for the rest of the Group B games against France and Lithuania.

But he's getting excited about the potential of his group.

"As I spoke with my players from the first day, we'll play the best basketball after the first 5-6 games. Because we had only two preparation games, we're getting better with every game. I hope we'll see better basketball than in the first three games," the coach was intrigued.


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