Outstanding Performers on September 7: Skele, Brazdeikis, Kuzminskas, Grazulis, and Valanciunas
Latvia and Lithuania showcased their basketball prowess, setting the stage for a Baltic derby to determine the 5th place, and several standout players made their mark.
In a thrilling 87-82 victory against Italy, Aigars Skele of Latvia demonstrated the impact of a deep roster. Despite playing just 3 minutes in their challenging quarter-final match against Germany, Skele proved his worth with a stellar performance. He contributed 12 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds against the Azzurri, flirting with a double-double. What made his display even more remarkable was his impressive 5-of-6 shooting accuracy from the field.
In another Classification Game, the Lithuanian team displayed remarkable efficiency in their convincing 100-84 win over Slovenia. Ignas Brazdeikis initially contributed with assists but shifted his focus to scoring, sinking two memorable three-pointers consecutively late in the second quarter. He concluded the game with 15 points, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas, representing Lithuania’s forward position from the bench, ensured there was no letup in their performance. He started strong with 8 points in the first quarter and maintained his excellence throughout the game, finishing with a total of 14 points, 3 steals, and a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field. Kuzminskas’s fourth-quarter three-pointer was a standout moment that might have stirred some difficult memories for USA fans.
Latvian big man Andrejs Grazulis had an undeniable presence in our Top Performers, as he etched his name in history. Grazulis showcased his shooting prowess by making an impressive 12-of-13 field goal, achieving the highest Field Goal Percentage (92.3%) for a player with at least 10 attempts in a FIBA World Cup game over the past three decades. He amassed 28 points and 6 rebounds, with his final shot serving as the dagger in the hearts of the Italian team.
And, of course, a Lithuanian basketball celebration would be incomplete without Jonas Valanciunas dominating in the paint. Securing his third double-double of this World Cup, Valanciunas contributed 24 points, 12 rebounds, and an impeccable 8-of-8 free throw shooting. His performance was characterized by relentless battles in the paint, signature pump fakes, and an apparent determination to leave a lasting impact on the rims of the Mall of Asia Arena.