Fiba World Cup: Latvia bounces back, squeaks past Italy in classification | Inquirer Sports

Fiba World Cup: Latvia bounces back, squeaks past Italy in classification

/ 07:32 PM September 07, 2023

Andrejs Grazulis Latvia Fiba World Cup

Andrejs Grazulis and Latvia during a classification game against Italy in the Fiba World Cup at Mall of Asia Arena. -MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines—It won’t be back-to-back days of heartbreak for Latvia as it moved on to the battle for fifth spot in the 2023 Fiba World Cup at Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday.

After swallowing a bitter pill following a close loss to Germany on Wednesday, the Latvians rebounded with an 87-82 win over Italy in another nailbiter.


“This is what we want. After yesterday, we want to be fifth and fight to be a top five team in the world. We just kept fighting and it happened,” said forward Rodions Kurucs.


“It was hard in the first half because yesterday we had just 10-12 hours of rest, probably. It was really hard but in the second half we got to the locker room and decided to come back with a new energy and we just bounced back.”

Andrejs Grazulis hit the dagger triple that set the final count with 24 seconds remaining after Italy went on a 13-5 run to wipe out a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Grazulis fired 28 points on a 12-of-13 shooting clip to power the Latvians, who shot a scorching 59 percent from the field.

Kurucs said the presence of NBA star center Kristaps Porzingis despite his injury was a big boost for Latvia throughout the tournament.

“Him being here is a motivation for us. Seeing him supporting us throughout the whole tournament, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said after finishing with four points, three assists and three steals.

Davis Bertans Latvia Fiba World Cup

Latvia’s Davis Bertans. -MARLO CUETO/

Italy, which got crushed by Team USA in the quarterfinal two nights ago, missed the services of Utah Jazz swingman Simone Fontecchio.


Luigi Datome led the Azzurri with 20 points while Marco Spissu, who drained a 3-pointer to pull the Italians within two, 82-84, with 41 ticks to go, had 10 points and seven assists.

Aside from Grazulis, Aigars Skele also shone with 12 points and nine rebounds for Latvia while Arturs Zagars added 10 points and six assists.

Latvia takes on the winner between Slovenia and Lithuania for fifth place.

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“I will take any of them because we lost to both of them in our preparation tournaments, so I’ll take either of them. They’re both good teams and it’ll be a good battle. We’ll give them a good fight,” said Kurucs.

TAGS: Fiba World Cup, Italy, Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia

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