Spain was not Spain, that iron team in defense and with a faith in its strength as a group that multiplies any individual performance. Against Latvia, at the start of the second phase of the World Cup, the team was a blurred team, soft when it should have been hard, inferior in rebounding and without solutions to stop some players who shook the shaker until winning with a partial 11-27 in the fourth quarter. The defeat puts the champion in a good mess. In a group of four in which the first two reach the quarterfinals, their chances of reaching the quarterfinals will be played on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. against the powerful Canada coached by Jordi Fernández. In the air there is also the option of opting for a direct ticket to the Paris 2024 Games: only the two best European teams qualify.
Scariolo had started with Alberto Díaz, Llull and Claver in the starting five as a contention barrier against a very dynamic team with great shooters. The two sets did not take long to show their weapons. Point guard Zagars dribbled and penetrated into the kitchen to evade Willy’s wall. On the next play, the Spanish center marked territory in the paint. Latvia is happy on the perimeter and on the run. Spain has dynamite in its towers. The team had set itself the duty of resisting in those first minutes against an explosive opponent who always looks at the basket and attacks the basket with great conviction from every corner. The Latvian bet was not misleading because it was the recipe that knocked down France and stood up to Canada. Spain knew what awaited them, and even so they conceded the first blows (4-6, 9-10). The little Zagars bit the same as the big Smits in their forays towards the board (between the two they signed the first 10 points of their selection). The Spanish response was to look for Willy and Juancho near the net, although more solutions were urgently needed: Claver was left with the ball in his hands and time ran out in an attack.
Juan Núñez and Garuba came to the rescue. Freshness to generate play and cement to cover water leaks. Latvia threatened from the outside and that opened the door for penetrations because Spain had to advance its lines. Rudy, Abrines and Aldama renewed the team’s outfit, now with a new quintet, but the film was the same. Latvia exploited their vertical game, with a lot of ball movement and short possessions; Spain was out of tune in the triple and free throws. The champion was not comfortable in a pavilion with a large presence of Latvian fans (16-17 at the end of the first quarter).
The first Latvian triple at the seventh attempt, by Davis Bertans, further heated the boys in red and white. Spain at times traced that rival’s crazy rhythm, but without success, drowned by losses. That’s not your DNA. Another outside bingo from Zagars, whom Abrines cannot get my hands on, increased the difference (18-23). Núñez committed a foul in attack in a counterattack, Juancho missed a long shot again with the stopwatch showing the time, the ball slipped past Brizuela, or was lost along the touchline in a pass to nowhere… Scariolo He ordered a stop because the traffic jam was worrisome: in six minutes of the second round, only two points in the backpack. Spain woke up from lethargy with a triple by Juancho and quick hands and feet for recoveries and counterattacks. In the middle of the thicket, only the defensive cut turned on the light. The team came back to life with a 9-0 run and reached the break with a better result (32-29 in favor) than sensations, soft to close the rebound.
The appointment resumed with a strangeness. Free kick for Latvia for a technique to Scariolo at the end of the first half. It was the spark that started a fire. In 1m 14s, a 0-8 for the Latvian team (32-37). Willy suffered to put the lock on and Smits took him out of the cave, although the ex-Barcelona soon charged with the fourth foul. It had to be the triples of two hard-working men, Claver and Alberto Díaz, who kept the building standing. The Unicaja point guard once again showed off without the ball to take an offensive foul from the powder Zagars. And Rudy condensed his eternal youth of 38 years in a few seconds: rebounding in attack, stealing the ball, three-pointer and free kick, four lessons from an old fox that woke up Spain (49-42). The captain had to retire even due to a blow to the head. War wounds. Finally with an intensity behind that made him recognizable, Spain caught some oxygen. Díaz was an octopus for the removal and Brizuela gave the team the agitation he needed to exhaust the defenders and find cracks. With Garuba on the wall instead of Willy, a 16-5 for La Familia made it 58-47 before the last confrontation.
Latvia had not said its last word. Grazulis hit the triple and his team began to believe in recovering lost ground. Spain took three minutes to score, and it was with a free kick from Claver, again blocked when it came time to face the basket. A two plus one from Davis Bertans, again hurting the team on the inside, and two consecutive outside bingos from Zoriks lifted the Latvian fans from their seats. In a blink, 61-61. Goodbye to an income that had reached 12 points. Scariolo made use of his most reliable pawns. People like Rudy and Garuba. Claver, a player for everything, stood at four for Juancho. The young Núñez and Aldama did not play the entire second part.
The selection landed very dense in those last minutes, with a stiff wrist and fear in the body. Quite the opposite of Latvia, who thought they were unstoppable. Grazulis and Kurucs hammered the Spanish hoop (65-70 with 1m 28s to go). Spain burned the last quarters desperately. A triple from Brizuela made it 69-71 with 25 seconds left, but there was no time to turn it around or stars to work miracles. When the national team is not a granite defensive block, it is no longer the world and European champion team. If in the service sheet he adds 11 free throw failures and 16 losses, the accounts do not add up. Now they will have to clear their minds in a few hours, return to their essence and get bigger against Canada if they want to reach the quarterfinals. It is already a final.
SPAIN, 69; LATVIA, 74
Spain: Alberto Díaz (3), Llull (5), Claver (4), Juancho Hernangómez (9), Willy Hernangómez (14) – starting team -; Rudy Fernández (5), Abrines (5), Aldama (2), Brizuela (11), Garuba (11) and Núñez (0).
Latvia: Zagars (7), Davis Bertans (16), Rodions Kurucs (13), Rolands Smits (11), Arturs Kurucs (1) -equipo titular-; Cavars (0), Skele (2), Grazulis (11), Pasecniks (0), Zoriks (11), Strautins (2), Dairis Bertans (0).
Partial: 16-17, 16-12, 26-18 y 11-27.
Referees: Glisic (Serbia), Fernández (Argentina) and Vazquez (Puerto Rico).
Indonesia Arena (Jakarta): 7,117 spectators.
Classification of the groups of the second phase.
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