After demolishing Japan 88-48 in their tournament opener on Monday, Latvia looks to carry the momentum as they face Czech Republic on Tuesday in Serbia.
Latvia will be without NBA rising star Kristaps Porzingis throughout the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. But if the team’s thrashing of Japan is any indication, Latvia will do just fine sans the 7-foot-3 stretch forward.
Right off the gates, Latvia proved it was the better team against Japan. The European squad suffocated the Japanese on defense and manhandled them on offense. The first quarter ended with them on top, 26-11. Latvia was able to sustain its dominance en route to the blowout victory.
With a victory over Japan, Latvia can rest easy knowing it has done enough to warrant a semi-final berth. Another win in Group B will guarantee the team a higher seed in the next round, not unless Czech Republic has something to say about it.
Czech Republic will be spearheaded by FC Barcelona point guard Tomas Satoransky and Fenerbahce power forward Jan Vesely. The Czech team, who finished seventh at the 2015 FIBA EuroBasket, will also feature newcomers Lukas Palyza and Martin Kriz.
The awesome twosome will replace veteran small forward Lubos Barton and KK Włocławek sniper David Jelinek. Many were caught off-guard by Jelinek’s omission from the team, but Czech head coach Ronen Ginzburg explained that the decision was a matter of fit not talent.
“Everyone knows David is a good player but he missed big part of the preparations and we have many players at his position,” he told FIBA.com. “We could not be sure he would get big minutes and he needs playing time to get into rhythm and show what he is capable of.”
Ginzburg added that playing on a national team is different from club basketball. National team players should perform right away when their numbers are called, as oppose to needing extra minutes to get into rhythm.
The group stages of the 2016 FIBA OQT in Belgrade will conclude on Wednesday. The Serbia vs. Czech Republic match will kick at 3 p.m. ET and will be shown via live stream on Live Basketball TV.