Latvia finishes top five despite missing its biggest star, other key players
MANILA, Philippines—In Latvia’s first-ever Fiba World Cup appearance, the team immediately made a statement by being one of the five best countries in the world of basketball.
Latvia finished fifth after a dominant 98-63 win over Lithuania in the classification phase on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Still, one can’t help but wonder what could’ve been had Latvia paraded a healthy roster. After all, Latvia reached this far on the world stages despite missing its best player Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis missed the World Cup due to a plantar fasciitis injury but still joined the team in its campaign.
“Of course, it would be different. We are definitely a great team right now without him but with him, we would have been better. Also with our point guard and shooting guards, we would have been better,” said forward Rodions Kurucs after finishing with 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“We have so many players who were injured but we kept fighting and believing.”
But Porzingis isn’t the only key player missing from Latvia.
Rihards Lomasz, who suffered a torn ACL, and Janis Strelnieks, who ruptured his Achilles tendon earlier this year, were also out for Latvia in the World Cup.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Latvians also lost Dairis Bertans during their upset win over France in the group phase in Jakarta due to a left hamstring injury.
Davis Bertans, who will play for the Oklahoma City Thunder this coming NBA season, on the other hand, chose to focus on what Latvia was still able to achieve with the players available on their team.
“Unfortunately, we’ll never know what would’ve been. I think we did an amazing job in this situation we were in. We’d probably have a little bit of a different game style if he was in, of course,” said Bertans, who had five points and six rebounds.
“He’s one of the top bigs in the world and we would’ve played a little bit of different basketball on both ends of the floor. We’ll never know but this way is good as well so we’re extremely happy with the position we’re in right now.”