Italy started the game strongly, taking advantage of Latvia’s busy schedule. However, it was Andrejs Grazulis who took charge for the Three Stars, securing an 87-82 victory.
Italy played without Simone Fontecchio, while Latvia’s Davis Bertans and Arturs Zagars began on the bench and had limited playing time. Latvia will now compete for fifth place in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, while Italy will battle for seventh.
The first half saw both teams in a closely contested match. But in the second half, Coach Luca Banchi’s decision to include Arturs Zagars in the starting lineup signaled Latvia’s intent to go on one of their trademark runs.
This strategy paid off as Zagars made consecutive three-pointers, giving Latvia a double-digit lead. Whenever Italy tried to stage a comeback, Andrejs Grazulis’ finesse near the basket maintained Latvia’s advantage.
The game witnessed a dramatic 27-point turnaround. Italy held a 13-point lead early on, only to see Latvia take control and establish a 14-point lead early in the third quarter.
As the game turned into a battle of three-point shooting, Italy managed to narrow the gap to just two points with less than a minute remaining.
In the crucial moment, Andrejs Grazulis stepped up, sinking the game-winning three-pointer from the left corner with just 24 seconds left to play.
Italy’s performance underwent a noticeable shift in the absence of Fontecchio, yet they offered a glimpse of both the past and the future.
Gigi Datome led the team with 20 points, while the young talent Gabriele Procida also made a significant impact with 8 points coming off the bench, demonstrating his readiness to assume a key role when Datome eventually retires.
“I’m so proud because we have two Italian coaches here among the top eight, and just missed the third one, that’s Sergio Scariolo (with Spain),” said Gianmarco Pozzecco, Italy head coach.
“For the Italian basketball, this is a good signal, most of the time I talk about my players, this is the first time that I have to say something from my category. Simone (Fontecchio) was sick, he wanted to play, but the doctor and I decided he was not going to play.”
Watch the game highlights between Italy and Latvia in the Class. Games 5-8 at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023: