The surprise run of the tournament hasn’t lost it legs as Latvia won their fifth game of the tournament against Turkey with a 73-68 victory which came down to the dying seconds.
After Turkey started brightly the game turned into a contest in the second quarter and was more or less tied from three minutes before half-time until the very final seconds, with neither side able to pull away until Can Özcan missed a three pointer for Turkey with two seconds left and the score at 71-68 to Latvia.
Lauris Mizis had another great game for the Latvians with 26 points and seven rebounds, along with Dairis Bertans with 16 points and six boards, while for the losing side Dogus Balbay shone again with 27 points.
Turkey led from the off as Latvia looked tired and didn’t show their usually fighting style.
|Dogus Balbay was on target once again for Turkey with 27 points. |
They were easily beaten to the rebound by Turkey, who soon took control of the game with 23-13 lead.
Balbay was again leading the way with good passing and shooting.
His side’s 9-0 run combined with some woeful shooting from Latvia (1/7 inside the arc) meant that the days of the Baltic side’s unbeaten run looked numbered.
But Latvia weren’t prepared to let their unexpected record slip so easily, and made more of a fight of it in the second with names you expect scoring well in what was again essentially a strong team effort.
Janis Strelnieks, Janis Kaufmanis and Mizis improved their shooting, while in defence the whole side rebounded much better to deny Turkey the bevy of chances they had enjoyed in the first, taking it all square 34-34 into the second half.
What followed in the second half was an excellent struggle between the sides for control of the game, bringing the best out of star players Mizis and now Bertans for Latvia and Balbay and Mükremin Deniz Kilicli (who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds) for Turkey.
The sides stayed level with the lead flashing back and fourth between the two until a decisive steal and lay up from Strelnieks with 1:21 left in the game put the Latvians two up 68-66.
With the crowd anticipating our first buzzer beater of the games, Batuk stood up to take two free shots with just 15 seconds left and the score at 69-68 in Latvia’s favour.
Both bounced agonisingly back from the rim and on the resulting rebound Latvia drew a foul, leaving a cool headed Bertans to convert his two free shots and give his side a three point lead.
Özcan missed his trey on the next play and the result was effectively decided before Latvia finished with two more free shots.
The victory gives Latvia and excellent shot at the semi-finals with another beaten side, Greece, their final opponent in the group.