Puerto Rico topples Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominican Republic for crucial win
MANILA, Philippines — John Holland drained the go-ahead triple as Puerto Rico overcame Karl-Anthony Towns and the Dominican Republic, 102-97, in the Fiba World Cup second round on Friday evening at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Holland made the Dominicans pay by knocking down the open triple off an assist from Tremont Waters for a 98-95 with 31.1 ticks to go.
The win forged a four-way tie in Group I with only two teams advancing to the quarterfinals.
“He [Waters] made the right decision. I’m happy he did it, I’m happy he trusted me and like I said, that’s the growth of our team. We trusting each other and playing together. It’s a beautiful thing to watch,” said Holland after finishing with six points, two rebounds, and two assists.
Towns missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer before Waters hit two free throws in front of a good Puerto Rican crowd chanting MVP to extend the lead to five, 100-95, with 20 seconds left.
With the game still on the line, Jordan Howard put Dominican Republic away for good with a pair of freebies with 13 seconds left.
Waters unleashed 37 points built on seven three-pointers to go with 11 assists, seven rebounds, and four steals.
“He’s amazing. He did what he had to do. He hits big shots, he led us defensively, and offensively, and you know we got the job done. We all chipped in but you know, we’re a great team and like I said, we’re growing and we’re getting even better,” said Holland of Waters’ stellar game.
Towns, who dropped 39 points and 10 rebounds, but went scoreless in the final 4:10 after a vicious dunk that gave the Dominicans an 89-88 edge.
The Minnesota Timberwolves star’s output tied Jordan’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for the most points in this World Cup. But it wasn’t enough as Dominican Republic (3-1) suffered its first loss after sweeping the first round.
Conditt was also instrumental with 18 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. Howard had 11 points and five assists, as Christopher Ortiz and Isaiah Pineiro had 10 points each to keep Puerto Rico in contention for the final phase ahead of their last second-round match against Italy on Sunday.
“We just had to get this win. Obviously, the whole tournament we’ve been getting better and better from the preparation games to now. I think we have just been taking the steps and growing as a team, coming together. It’s a short time that we could come together, we’re not a team like Serbia that’s been together for years or like these other teams but we’re doing it,” Holland said. “We’re coming together at the right time and I think we just gotta keep going.”
Towns, who was limited to 10 points in the first half, erupted for 19 points in the third quarter as Dominican Republic built a 74-63 spread late in the period.
Puerto Rico, however, quickly responded with Waters scoring three consecutive triples — two from the final seconds of the third and another one to start the payoff period — to cut the deficit down to just two.
The Dominicans regained momentum and stretched their lead back to eight, 84-76, before the Puerto Ricans countered again with another run to take an 86-84 advantage, paving the way for a back-and-forth duel in the final four minutes.
Andres Feliz also came up big for the Dominicans with 22 points, five rebounds and eight assists.
Golden State Warriors’ Lester Quinones played his best game in the tournament with 13 points but fouled out of the game.
Waters and Puerto Rico hope to sustain their form against Italy on Sunday while Towns and the Dominicans seek to bounce back against Serbia also on Sunday.