It will be an all-European battle in the remaining classification games of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, as Italy is set to duel Latvia while Lithuania takes on Slovenia to determine their final rankings.
For fans in the Philippines, it’s a great opportunity to once again see great teams in action, which rings especially true for Latvia and Slovenia, who have both only played one game in Manila so far.
The first game on Thursday, September 7, features Italy wrestling with Latvia at 4:45 p.m.
Italy simply did not have the firepower to challenge USA in their quarterfinal clash, as they lost 100-63. Still, this campaign has already been hugely successful for the Azzurri as they ended their 25-year absence from the quarterfinals. Back in 1998, the Italian squad that actually included current head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco finished sixth, and they will be able to eclipse that achievement with a win over Latvia.
The Italians will have to rediscover their touch from the outside, though, as they only managed to make seven of their 38 three-point attempts (18.4%) against USA. They will also need to find help for Simone Fontecchio, after the opposing defense focused on him in their last game.
Latvia, on the other end, can only imagine what could have been after suffering a tough 81-79 loss to Germany in their own quarterfinal assignment. The Latvian squad, buoyed by the amazing support from their fans, battled back from 10 points down in the final two and half minutes of the game. They even had a shot to win it, but Davis Bertans’ triple rimmed out in the dying moments.
Bertans still finished with 20 points, but it was point guard Arturs Zagars who gave them a big boost with 24 points and eight assists in the loss. It will be a big challenge for Latvia to play a game on back-to-back days, but they will once again get a lot of support from their fans who have travelled more than 9,000 kilometers to see their squad in action.
The second game will feature Lithuania facing Slovenia at 8:30 p.m.
Coming off a huge win against USA, Lithuania ran into a brick wall in defensive-minded Serbia in the quarterfinals, losing the game 87-68. It was a frustrating end to their medal hopes, as their first loss of the entire tournament came at the worst time.
Vaidas Kariniauskas will need a bounce back performance, as he was held scoreless by the Serbian defense, just a game after dropping 15 points versus the Americans. Rokas Jokubaitis will need to set the offense up once more, as he played well against Serbia with a near double-double of 13 points and nine assists.
On the other side, Slovenia won’t have a lot of time to rest after absorbing a 100-89 defeat against Canada in the last quarterfinal match. Luka Doncic had 26 points, five assists, and four rebounds, but he was not able to carry Slovenia in the endgame as he was thrown out due to two technical fouls. Klemen Prepelic backed him up with 22 points, but it was not nearly enough to overcome the star power of the Canadians led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 31 points.
Doncic said in the post-game press conference that he appreciates the support by the Filipino fans and hopes to pick up a win in Manila.
Tickets are available for as low as PHP 249 on smtickets.com.