Andrejs Grazulis and David Bertas played the firemen’s role as Latvia survived repeated rallies by Italy before preserving an 87-82 win in their classification for fifth to eighth spots of the FIBA World Cup 2023 at the Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday night.
Grazulis scattered 28 points, including the dagger trey with still 1:29 left that gave Latvia an 84-79 lead.
The 30-year-old 6-foot-8 forward made all but one of his 13 attempts from the field as his near perfect game kept the Latvians afloat and helped repulse repeated uprisings by an Italian team that played without its top gun, Simone Fontecchio.
Fontecchio was on the bench but didn’t see action.
Without Fontecchio, a second stringer of the Utah Jazz in the National Basketball Association, Italy’s firepower diminished.
Still, the Italians kept on coming back with veteran Luigi Datome leading the way.
Datome, who previously played for the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons, wound up with 20 points.
But Latvia had more contributions even from players coming off the bench. Two of these key contributors were Arturs Zagars and Davis Bertans, who combined for 19 points.
Latvia will face the winner of the match between Slovenia and Lithuania, which is still being played as of press time.
“We were talking before the game that we were unlucky. We have to look forward. My hats off to our young guys and they need to play these type of games to grow up,” said Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco.