Before an estimated 2,000 Slovenian fans in the stands, most if not all of them staying and chanting for them long after the game ended, Goran Dragic outdueled Luka Doncic in the first head-to-head meeting between the only two Slovenians currently in the NBA.
“It felt like we were in Ljubljana,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, speaking of the Slovenian capital.
Dragic had 23 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his second career triple-double to help the Heat move back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference by topping the Dallas Mavericks 105-99 on Thursday night.
“He’s the old don and Luka is the new up-and-coming,” Wade said about Dragic. “So it was 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 — teammates on the Slovenian team that won the European championship two summers ago — exchanged hugs and jerseys. Miami swept the season series from the Mavs, but Dragic didn’t play in the Heat win at Dallas.
“It was great. Honestly maybe for the first time in my career I was nervous before the game,” Doncic said. “It was different for me, but it was a special night.”
Dallas led by 11 points in the first half and took a 59-49 lead into the locker room after a tip dunk by Dorian Finney-Smith beat the halftime buzzer. But Wade hit a jumper with 1:11 left to put Miami on top for good, Doncic missed a long 3-pointer on the next Dallas trip down the floor and Dragic extended Miami’s lead to 100-97 with a nifty up-and-under move on the ensuing Heat possession.
And with that, the building roared. The Miami fans might have even been drowned out. Countless Slovenia jerseys were spotted in the stands, along with scarves bearing the country’s name, all for very good reason.
They were there for Dragic vs. Doncic.
They got a show, too.
“To buy a ticket, to fly from a different continent here and to stay here and support us, it’s something amazing,” Dragic said, before he went back out, addressed the crowd 30 minutes after the game and signed autographs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.