The classification games of the 2023 FIBA World Cup conclude with a local derby. Davis Bertans and Latvia take on Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania to decide fifth place.
Who: Latvia (5-2) vs Lithuania (6-1)
Where: Mall of Asia Arena, Manila
When: Saturday 9 September at 20.30 Manila/15.30 Vilnius/13.30 London/08.30 New York
How they got here
Latvia recorded wins over France and Lebanon before losing to Canada. They bounced back to beat Spain and Brazil. They then lost a heartbreaker to Germany to miss out on the medal rounds of the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Davis Bertans rallied the troops and they beat Italy on Thursday.
Lithuania opened the tournament with five straight wins over Mexico, Egypt, Montenegro, Greece, and, on the back of a powerful Jonas Valanicunas display, the USA. They then lost convincingly to Serbia in the quarter finals before bouncing back to beat Italy.
Given the big man was just mentioned, Jonas Valanciunas vs Roland Smits is a big one to watch here. JV is clearly the better 5 so the question is what do Latvia do to give him fewer opportunities to hurt them. A big part of that will come down to their own star, Davis Bertans, in drawing Valanciunas away from dangerous positions.
The other big battle is Arturs Zagars, the Latvia point guard, taking on Rokas Jokubaitis, the key creator for Lithuania. Both men have impressed a lot at this tournament and both will be hungry to finish the 2023 FIBA World Cup on a high.
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Need to know
This may be the friendliest rivalry in all of European basketball. Check out this interaction between Lithuania and Latvia fans from Wednesday to see what I mean. Lithuania has the more storied history in basketball but neither side will want to lose face against their neighbour.
This is Latvia’s first ever appearance at the FIBA World Cup so, no matter what happens, they have achieved a lot. Both teams will be targeting the Olympic qualifying tournaments next summer. Don’t be surprised if the coaches are cautious with anyone that looks like they even might be hurt.
What the bookies think
The betting odds had yet to be listed at the time of publication. I will add them as soon as they are.
What we think
This one will be a really good game. It will almost certainly be played in a fair spirit but neither side will want to give an inch. In terms of fatigue, there’s no real edge here. In terms of motivation, it surely has to go to Lithuania. Much as Latvia will want to finish with a win, Lithuania are still smarting from that bad loss to Serbia.
In a close one, I’m going with Lithuania.