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Italians fire warning shots

Simone Fontecchio (left) and Nicolo Melli (right) join forces for Italy in beating Nikola Jokic and Serbia at EuroBasket 2022. (FIBA)

Italy delivered a glimpse of its deadly form after sweeping its friendly matches as part of its preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup from 25 August to 10 September.

With National Basketball Association player Simone Fontecchio at the helm, the Italians beat powerhouse Serbia, 89-88, despite the presence of Miami Heat forward Nikola Jovic and Atlanta Hawks triggerman Bogdan Bogdanovic.

The Italians, who are bracketed with Gilas Pilipinas, Dominican Republic and Angola in the World Cup, also beat Greece, 74-70, to rule the 2023 Aegean Acropolis Basketball Tournament in Athens.

Fontecchio, a teammate of Gilas star Jordan Clarkson at the Utah Jazz in the NBA, delivered 17 points while Nicolo Melli had 13 points for the Italians, who claimed their fourth title of the tournament.

Fontecchio said they are happy with the outcome of their preparation and they are looking forward to play in the biggest basketball spectacle in the world that will tip off at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

“These are still friendlies but we are happy with the win and above all with the way we played,” said Fontecchio after winning over a Greek side that missed the services of former NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“We defended, used the right amount of aggression and got the ball rolling effectively.”

Prior to that, the Italians also swept their tuneup matches against China, Cape Verde and Turkey in the Trentino Cup.

Italy escaped Turkey by the skin of its teeth, 90-89, in overtime and walloped China, 79-61, in which it spoiled the international debut of Kyle Anderson.

While the Italians are on a roll, the Angolans are struggling as they suffered three straight losses to Jordan, 56-70; Mexico, 76-78; and Portugal, 67-72; in the Kings’ Cup in Amman recently.

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