Good Signs For Latvia Against Tall Blacks

27 August 2003
From PA International, Riga

Latvia coach Armands Kraulins is hoping his players can use their 90-76 win over New Zealand as a launchpad for a successful European Championships.

Latvia were hammered by Turkey 86-70 in their opening Efes Pilsen World Cup II game and then humiliated 111-87 by Russia, leaving them a chance to grab the small consolation of fifth place the tournament.

They took advantage by defeating New Zealand, semi-finalists at last summer's World Championships in Indianapolis, 90-76. The Baltic side stormed out of the game, leading 31-18 after the first quarter, and never allowed the Kiwis back into the game.

The Latvians do not possess the most flamboyant of players in Europe, but what has allowed them to live with the best teams over the years has been their long-range shooting and team defence.

Both have been missing during this summer's Eurobasket preparations but against the Tall Blacks, Latvia excelled in both areas.

Latvia made 11 of 20 shots from behind the three-point arc, with Ainars Bagatskis particularly effective (six-of-10).

Kraulins' men also made shot the ball well from the free line, making 27 of their 33 attempts.

Kraulins said: "As it was proved two years ago in the European Championships in Turkey, our strength is in good defensive coordination. We have to be a united team, because only in this case can we achieve good results.

"We can not count on individual performance - we don't have such stars that could determine the outcome of an entire game."

Bagatskis finished with 25 points to lead all scorers while Real Madrid's Kaspar Kambala had 22 with nine rebounds. Roberts Stelmahers also contributed 17 points and had nine assists.

Kraulins had some thoughts on the contributions of two players, Kambala and American-born Troy Ostler, and the injury problems of his veteran guard Rainmonds Miglenieks.

Kambala's statistics speak for themselves, but when asked about Ostler, who only recently joined the team after a holiday break in the United States, Kraulins said: "Of course, it takes time [for him) to find his playing rhythm, but everything is moving towards that direction.

"He is the kind of player who could make a difference for us and who should make a difference."

The 33-year-old Miglenieks, however, doesn't appear to have completely recovered from his injury problems and Kraulins may not be able to give the player as many minutes as he intended.

In fact, Miglenieks is not even a certainty to make the team.

"His passing is excellent, but only in positional play," Kraulins said. He is not 100%, because he lacks the speed which has implications of both offence and defence."

Latvia are to travel to Spain to participate in a tournament and will face the Ukraine on Thursday before taking on either Poland or Spain on Friday.

Miglenieks, who averaged almost nine points and more than seven assists per game at the European Championships two years ago, was not expected to travel to Spain which casts further doubt on his participation in Sweden.

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