Lauri Markkanen showcased his brilliance as Finland triumphantly secured their inaugural win in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, commanding a convincing 100-77 victory over Cape Verde in a classification round clash at the Okinawa Arena on Tuesday evening.
The Utah Jazz forward delivered a remarkable personal tournament-high of 34 points, with 18 of those points coming in the first half alone. Markkanen’s early offensive prowess propelled Susijengi to a substantial lead, effectively paving the way for their long-awaited triumph. The Finnish team had previously faced tough defeats against Australia, hosts Japan, and Germany in the First Round.
Looking ahead, the Quarter-Finalists of EuroBasket 2022 are poised to conclude their campaign on a resolute note when they square off against Venezuela on Saturday at 16:30 local time.
Defining Moment: Markkanen played a pivotal role in a critical 9-1 surge that concluded the first quarter with a commanding 28-16 advantage. Finland successfully retained their double-digit lead throughout the rest of the game.
Despite the valiant efforts of the Blue Sharks, who rallied late in the second quarter with contributions from Edy Tavares and Anderson Correia, their fatigued legs from a grueling match against Slovenia within the past 24 hours hindered their ability to keep pace.
TCL Player of the Game: Markkanen exhibited exceptional efficiency, shooting an impressive 12-of-19 from the field and sinking 8-of-10 free throws. In addition to his scoring prowess, he garnered 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in nearly 27 minutes of court time, amassing an EFF rating of 39 and earning the game’s top accolade.
Statistics Don’t Deceive: The divergence in three-point shooting accuracy between the two teams significantly contributed to the outcome. Finland’s impeccable ball movement, reflected in their 33 assists, translated into 14 successful three-point shots. In contrast, Cape Verde struggled, managing only three conversions out of 19 attempts.
Key Takeaway: Although Finland’s chances of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics have diminished, Coach Lassi Tuovi’s squad ensured they wouldn’t depart empty-handed.
Conversely, Cape Verde now faces heightened pressure in the competitive race for an Olympic spot from Africa. Their showdown against Japan awaits on Saturday as they strive to conclude their campaign on a high note.
In Their Words: “I’m proud of the guys. They came into the game [focused] especially defense-wise. Cape Verde [only] had 16 points in the first quarter. Great job with Tavares inside, putting bodies in there, and rebounding. And, 33 assists tell that we were a team today.” – Lassi Tuovi, Head Coach, Finland
“I would like to give a word of appreciation to my athletes, who [played] in less than 24 hours after the game against Slovenia. The Finnish team was fresher since they had more time to rest. One more day of rest makes a lot of difference compared to us. It was also a tough game for us because the three-point didn’t go in for us.” – Emanuel Trovoada, Head Coach, Cape Verde