Latvia Holds Off Italy’s Comeback, Advances to Battle for Fifth Place
In a thrilling showdown at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, Latvia faced off against Italy in a clash that kept fans on the edge of their seats. Despite a strong start by Italy, Latvia managed to secure an 87-82 victory, earning the opportunity to compete for fifth place, while Italy prepared to battle for seventh.
The turning point in this intense matchup came in the second half when Latvia’s coach, Luca Banchi, strategically inserted Arturs Zagars among the starters. This move ignited one of Latvia’s trademark runs, with Zagars hitting back-to-back three-pointers that propelled his team to a double-digit lead. As Italy attempted to mount a comeback, Andrejs Grazulis’ finesse around the rim kept the score in favor of Latvia.
The game witnessed a remarkable 27-point swing, as Italy initially held a 13-point lead, only to see Latvia seize control and establish a 14-point advantage early in the third quarter. In a late-game showdown of three-point shooting, Italy managed to narrow the gap to just two points with less than a minute remaining. However, it was Andrejs Grazulis who played the hero, sinking the game-winning three-pointer from the left corner with only 24 seconds left on the clock.
Andrejs Grazulis, the 30-year-old forward, emerged as the star of the game. He delivered his best scoring performance of the tournament, notching 28 points on a remarkable 12-of-13 shooting, surpassing his previous high of 24 points against Brazil. His 28-point performance against Italy also marked a new national team career-high and set a single-game record for any Latvian player in a World Cup game.
Latvia’s sharpshooting prowess was once again on display, as they made 15 three-pointers out of 31 attempts. This marked their fifth game in the tournament with 12 or more three-pointers made, a testament to their exceptional long-range shooting.
For the Latvian fans in Manila, the adventure continues as their team advances to compete for fifth place. Aigars Skele played a crucial role, contributing 12 points and 9 assists, particularly when Arturs Zagars was not on the court.
On the other side, Italy faced challenges without Simone Fontecchio. However, they showcased glimpses of both the past and the future. Gigi Datome led the team with 20 points, while young talent Gabriele Procida impressed with 8 points off the bench, hinting at a promising future once Datome decides to retire.
In the words of Gabriele Procida, “It was tough today. We wanna finish strong because we deserve to finish strong, also for Gigi (Datome), our captain deserves that we play strong these last two games. For sure, there will be a reaction the day after tomorrow.”
Gianmarco Pozzecco, Italy’s head coach, reflected on the challenges of the game and acknowledged the commitment of his players, saying, “It was a tough game, the second one in two days. We started slow, but we got our game rolling and then the game became a bit easier. We just played our basketball, played fast, that helped us a lot. Just happy with the victory.”
As Latvia looks forward to competing for fifth place, coach Luca Banchi expressed his excitement, saying, “We can play for the fifth place, that will be very exciting.”
This thrilling encounter between Latvia and Italy added another captivating chapter to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, leaving fans eager for more exciting basketball action in the games ahead.