The classification games get decided on Saturday at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The day begins with Italy taking on Slovenia and it’s a special one. It’s the last ever game for Luigi Datome but will Luka Doncic spoil the party?
Who: Italy (4-3) vs Slovenia (4-3)
Where: Mall of Asia Arena, Manila
When: Saturday 9 September at 16.45 Manila/10.45 Rome/09.45 London/04.45 New York
How they got here
Italy recorded wins in the first two rounds over Angola, the Philippines, Serbia and Puerto Rico. Their one loss before the knockout rounds was to Dominican Republic. They then lost to USA in the quarter-finals and Latvia in the first round of classification.
Slovenia opened with four straight wins over Venezuela, Georgia, Cape Verde, and Australia. They lost to Germany and then fell to Canada in the quarter finals. Lithuania beat Slovenia on Thursday to send them to this playoff for 7th place at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Italy are going all out for Luigi Datome so it’s safe to say that Slovenia need to keep him at bay. Stefano Tonut has also enjoyed a lot of success with cut-in lay-ups from the baseline for Italy throughout this tournament.
For Italy, it’s about containing Luka Doncic but also his outlets. If the Italians can slow down Klemen Prepelic early, they have a great chance of disrupting the whole Slovenia offence.
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Need to know
On a practical note, Simone Fontecchio sat out the game on Thursday against Latvia. The Utah Jazz man is likely to sit out this one. While Luka Doncic played against Lithuania on Thursday, he will likely leave us all guessing about Saturday. I expect him to suit up but don’t be shocked if we’ve seen the last of him at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
The other thing you need to know is what I said in the intro. This is Luigi Datome’s last game. That means it matters to Italy a lot. They want to do it for Gigi.
What the bookies think
The odds had yet to be posted at the time of writing. I will add them in as soon as I have them.
What we think
This game might well be a lot better than it has any right to be. Neither side has anything to play for but pride. Slovenia risking Luka Doncic already seems bizarre to me. That being said, he may go hard in this game but the fatigue has to be catching up on him.
The importance of this game to Italy is extraordinary. Gigi has been such a servant to his country that every man in an Italia jersey is going to want to do it for him. This is their NBA Finals, Olympic final, and 2023 FIBA World Cup final wrapped into one.
Logic is for losers. There is no way I’m picking against Luigi Datome in his last ever basketball game. Italy to win.