Knockout Sunday to decide last teams making FIBA World Cup QFs

The Dominican Republic and Italy are among the teams looking to make the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals right on the last day of the second round. Kennelf Monteza (file photo)
By Dugout Philippines

MANILA--The race for quarterfinal berths in Group I of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 is going down the wire, with two killer knockout games on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum

In the aftermath of Italy’s cliff-hanging 78-76 victory over Serbia and Puerto Rico’s hard-earned 102-97 win over the Dominican Republic and Karl-Anthony Towns last Friday, September 1, the bracket's second-round standing has been thrown into chaos with all four teams carrying 3-1 win-loss cards.

Breaking the tie commences at 4 p.m., with Italy facing Puerto Rico, followed by the 8 p.m. do-or-die between Serbia and the Dominican Republic. A packed Big Dome is expected for these games.

The winners advance to the quarterfinals starting September 5 where they will join Group J qualifiers USA and Lithuania, which, for their part, will resolve their 4-0 tie on Sunday.

Team USA scraped and clawed for more than three quarters before bringing down tenacious Montenegro 85-73 on Friday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, while Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania kept pace with the unbeaten Americans by crushing Greece 92-67.

“It is tough games like these where we learn how to deal with adversity,” said USA coach Steve Kerr, also of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

“Montenegro had a great game plan. They posted us on every play in the first half. So, we changed the scheme a little bit in the second half, and our guards did a good job finding [Nikola] Vucevic.”

A similar situation prevails in Jakarta where defending champion Spain, Canada, Brazil, and Latvia are locked with 3-1 win-loss records in Group L going to the last day of the Group Phase.

Shocked to the core by a Kristaps Porzingis-less Latvia 74-69 on Friday, Spain goes through a wringer against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Canada at 9:30 p.m., Sunday, at the Indonesia Arena. The Canadians, on the other hand, will be looking to put behind them a 69-65 heartbreaker to Brazil.

Euphoric after posting respective upsets over top-tier rivals, the Latvians and Brazilians now decide the other quarterfinal ticket at 5:45 p.m.

Awaiting the winners in the quarters are Group K qualifiers Germany and Slovenia, which will break a 4-0 impasse at 7:10 p.m., Sunday, at the Okinawa Arena in Japan.

Germany, inspired by the presence of former national player and NBA great Dirk Nowitzki, and Slovenia, powered by NBA superstar Luka Doncic, will be headed for Manila on Monday during the break, where thousands of fans await.

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