By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
MANILA, Philippines – Lithuania and Latvia are both located in the Baltics, they are both great in basketball, however, Lithuania has a more illustrious history and a long list of past achievements.
That’s why maybe Latvia had more motivation to win the classification game and to get the 5th spot in the FIBA World Cup 2023, in their maiden participation in the tournament.
Latvia ended up getting the impressive 98-63 win after leading from the first period (28-20) and dominating the third quarter with a partial 28-9 score, getting a 77-47 lead.
With Arturs Kurucs leading the way with 20 points, Rolands Smits added 17 and the team of Italian coach Luca Banchi couldn’t be denied.
Plus young point guard Arturs Zagars registered a new World Cup record with 17 assists, taking it over from legendary Tony Kukoc who had registered 15 almost 30 years ago. And the most impressive thing about it is that Zagars didn’t make not even one turnover.
As coach Banchi said about his guard who is still a free agent: “I am old and I need to rest after the tournament, but Arturs is young, he has to play, so we have to find him a job”.
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Rokas Jokubaitis had 16 points and Jonas Valanciunas scored 15 points for Lithuania, which had a good tournament despite low expectations because of missing players, most notably Domantas Sabonis.
On the other hand, Latvia lost to injury Kristaps Porzingis just before the start of the tournament and also captain Dairis Bertans during it.
Still, on paper Lithuania should and could have been more competitive, however, that simply didn’t happen.
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL