In a captivating beginning to their inaugural FIBA Basketball World Cup journey, Latvia announced their presence with authority, securing a resounding 109-70 victory over Lebanon in Group H. As one of the four debutants in the tournament, Latvia exhibited no signs of nerves, dazzling over 5,000 fervent supporters, including the watchful eyes of basketball star Kristaps Porzingis.
Latvia’s strategy of relying on the three-point shot paid dividends early in the game, as they drained an impressive 11 triples in the first half alone. This barrage of long-range shots paved the way for a commanding 25-point halftime lead, which they never relinquished. A decisive 15-0 surge early in the game handed them firm control, and the Bertans brothers, Dairis and Davis, were instrumental in netting six of those crucial three-pointers, solidifying Latvia’s substantial advantage within the first 20 minutes.
Dairis Bertans took center stage with a remarkable display, contributing a game-high 20 points with a remarkable 6-of-7 accuracy from beyond the arc. His all-around impact also included 4 assists and a turnover-free performance in just 15 minutes on the court. Roland Smits further bolstered Latvia’s charge, contributing 17 points and 7 rebounds on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting from the field. Latvia’s team effort was evident with 11 different players making their mark on the scoresheet, with seven of them hitting double figures.
A pivotal factor in Latvia’s dominance was their prowess in converting three-pointers, outscoring Lebanon by a staggering 33 points from beyond the arc. The Latvian team orchestrated a well-oiled offense, racking up 34 assists while committing only five turnovers, showcasing their precision and cohesion on the court.
Latvia’s historic victory marked their maiden appearance at the FIBA Basketball World Cup with a 1-0 start in Group H. With eyes fixed on rewriting the history books, Latvia is gearing up to face France in their next showdown on August 27, with hopes of continuing their remarkable journey.
On the other side of the contest, Lebanon faced an uphill battle as they commenced their campaign with a 0-1 record in the group. Their challenges are set to escalate as they prepare to take on Canada in their upcoming clash.
Coach Bob Donewald Jr. summed up the significance of the moment, saying, “One historical moment for Latvian basketball, first time ever in a World Cup and first win ever. That’s why I told the guys to celebrate this moment.” He also praised the incredible support of the fans, whose unwavering enthusiasm elevated the atmosphere to unforgettable heights.
Latvia forward Rolands Smits expressed satisfaction with the team’s performance, highlighting their unity and physical prowess on the court. The win was a testament to their collective approach, showcasing the best version of their game.
Lebanon’s coach, Jad El Hajj, acknowledged Latvia’s exceptional display, emphasizing their accuracy both from three-point range and under the basket. Despite the loss, El Hajj acknowledged the formidable control Latvia exerted throughout the game.
Lebanon guard Sergio El Darwich recognized the challenges of the game, conceding that Latvia’s proficiency in shooting proved a tough obstacle. He stressed the importance of learning from the experience and returning stronger in the matches to come.