The Spanish basketball team lost this Friday by a tight 69-74 against Latvia in the first game of the second phase of Mundobasket 2023, a not very brilliant duel for the Spanish team, which could have gone on the scoreboard in the third quarter, but a good final rush by the Latvians, coinciding with the worst minutes for Scariolo’s men, confirmed a defeat that made Spain’s move to the quarterfinals of the tournament much more complicated.

The pupils of Sergio Scariolo, who did not give much prominence to Núñez -leader until now of the team-, presented doubts in defense and little fluidity in attack, revealing the deficiencies in the outside game -33% in triples–. Only in the third quarter was a better Spain seen, reaching a 12-point lead, although the joy did not last long due to a lethal 5-18 run for the Latvians in the last quarter, the best of the debutants in the World Cup and executioner of France, and when the Spanish were not up to the task, conceding their first defeat in the tournament.

This, in the worst match of the national team -breaks the record of 11 games winning in the World Cup-, complicates life for Spain, now forced to beat Canada this Sunday to dream of the quarterfinals and the Olympic ticket for Paris 2024, also depending on what happens in Latvia-Brazil. Willy Hernangómez (14 points); Brizuela (11), with a hopeful triple at the end; and Garuba (11), who had the chance to tie in his hands, were the most outstanding.

Scariolo proposed a more physical and defensive team, with Alberto Díaz and Víctor Claver in the starting lineup, with Llull and Juancho Hernangómez serving balls to Willy, who was the most outstanding player for Spain at the start. Although the physical gear did not finish working, with the Latvians gaining bodies and scoring under the basket, ahead on the scoreboard after five minutes (9-10).

The intensity that was assumed was not such in this first quarter, without help in blocking shots, and suffering with the Latvian point guard Zagars, generator of play and points, although without the expected danger from the perimeter. His coming to the bench in the final stretch of this first match did not allow Spain to distance itself on the scoreboard either, but quite the opposite, with a desperate Scariolo with his team, who finished behind (16-17) in the first quarter.

The team was penalized by the not very high bar of energy and rhythm in those first 10 minutes, with a comfortable Latvia. The second quarter continued a little stuck, without the expected triple contest, with a 1/8 (0 in Spain) in the 12 minutes of play between both teams. That first success from the perimeter encouraged Latvia, with Zagars already becoming a headache for Scariolo and his team.

The team was still lost, with an excessive 8 losses up to that moment and colliding with a more upright Latvia and with the clearest ideas. With a bad 18-25 on the scoreboard, Spain re-enlisted with its first triple, by Juancho Hernangómez. A 9-0 run at the end of the second quarter mentally unstuck the team, and it could have been greater if a ‘mandarin’ from Llull had been valid, although it was missing. Another triple by Brizuela after a good combination allowed Spain to go ahead (32-29) at halftime.

After passing through the locker room, Latvia started with a free kick for a technique to Scariolo, at the beginning of the third quarter that seemed key to the future of the match. And the start of Spain was not up to par, with a partial against 0-8 in less than two minutes. The triples by Claver and Díaz gave some air and scoring to a somewhat poor attack by the Spanish, always in tow and following the Latvian rhythm.

With maximum equality in this third quarter, Spain showed character and grit to endorse an almost definitive 12-0 run, marking a distance that only dropped to 10 units before beginning the final quarter. Brizuela and Rudy scored from outside to bring the Spanish victory closer, in the set with the highest scoring for both teams (26 and 18), with a more fluid game. In the best period in Spain, also with a Latvian bonus, Garuba was also that power hammer that Scariolo is looking for, decisive on the inside.

In the last quarter, the battle for the quarterfinals tightened, with only one point, and from a free kick, from ‘La Familia’. In addition, a 2 1 and two consecutive triples from Latvia put the tie and tension in the Indonesian pavilion, with Spain in bonus for the last four minutes. A good maneuver by Zoriks confirmed the downturn for Scariolo’s men, who suffered a 5-18 run that lengthened the tie and did not allow Spain to have a calm finish.

And it was even worse with another successful three-pointer from Bertans and another basket from Rodions Kurucs, two daggers to put the Latvians with a vital cushion of five points for the last minute and a half. Spain trusted their options to the outside shot and did not come out, despite the fact that Brizuela made them dream of victory. Finally, a fresher and more serene Latvia endured that final tension to certify those quarterfinals except disaster.


–RESULT: SPAIN, 69 – LATVIA, 74 (32-29 at halftime).


SPAIN: Díaz (3), Llull (5), Claver (4), J. Hernangómez (9) and W. Hernangómez (14) –initial quintet– Brizuela (11), R. Fernández (), Aldama (2 ), Núñez (-), Abrines (5), Parra (-), R. Fernández (5), Garuba (11).

LATVIA: Zagars (7), Arturs Kurucs (1), Rodion Kurucs (13), Davis Bertans (16), Roland Smits (11) –quinteto inicial–; Strautins (2), Dairis Bertans (-), Cavars (), Skele (2), Grazulis (11), Pasecniks (), Zoriks (11).

— PARTIALS: 16-17, 16-12, 26-18 and 11-27.

–REFEREES: Vázquez, Glisic and Fernández.

–HALL: Indonesia Arena.