EUROBASKET: GB LEAVE FLURRY TOO LATE

Great Britain’s hopes of reaching the last 16 of EuroBasket hang by a thread after a 97-92 loss to Latvia.

Now adrift in Group D with an 0-3 record with two first round games remaining, the odds are now long on progress in Istanbul.

And on Monday, Joe Prunty’s men had no answer for New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis whose license to roam made him a devastating presence with 28 points and eight rebounds on 11/17 shooting.

GB, paced by 23 points and ten rebounds from Gabe Olaseni, threw in adjustments. For so long, nothing seemed to work once their rivals pulled decisively and emphatically clear with a 9-0 run in the second quarter.

Defending the three, with the Latvians converting a formidable 17/34 attempts, was a primary Achilles heel but there was damage inflicted elsewhere with the Brits swept brutally aside in a torrid spell in the third period when they trailed as much as 29.

And although Kyle Johnson led an astonishing late fightback in the fourth that brought GB within six, their foes held on to improve their own mark to 2-1.

“It was a tough third quarter,” the GB coach conceded. “Defensively in the first half they had too many easy looks and that obviously carried over into third and they got a big lead.

“Each game, we’ve had something we addressed. In the first game Belgium did shoot the ball well – (but they had) a lot of offensive rounds and we put them on the free throw line too much. Next game (against Turkey), too many turnovers.

“And today, we didn’t do a good enough job defending the three. 17 threes is too difficult to come back from. They deserve credit for making shots but we need to do a better job.”

Prunty had warned pre-game that Latvia’s young unicorn was not the only beast that could fatally spear his side.

But Porzingis scored Latvia’s first nine points to force the American into an early timeout which removed, briefly, some of the steam.

Dan Clark initiated 6-0 and although he was blocked by Porzingis who then hit another three, a further six straight points tied matters at 14-14.

That, ultimately, was as good as it got, even with Ben Mockford – inserted as a starter in place of the injured Luke Nelson – providing some dogged defensive hustle.

If it wasn’t the Knicks favourite, it was fellow NBAer Davis Bertans punishing GB from inside and out with the San Antonio Spur, who had 22 points on 7/8 shooting from three-point range, returning after missing Saturday’s rout of Belgium due to a finger injury.

Down 25-20 after a quarter when Olaseni fouled Rolands Smits on the buzzer as he converted inside, even a useful inside cameo from Eric Boateng in a 9-2 burst could bring GB no closer than two.

With Porzingis omnipresent at both ends – scoring, rebounding, altering shots, intimidating all over the court – a 15-3 run moved Latvia 49-34 clear before their Group D rivals reduced the margin in 50-40 at half-time.

Eric Boateng won his 102th cap

GB had made just 3/11 from beyond the arc. Ainar Bagatksis’ side a ferocious 10/20, enough to make up for occasional defensive sloppiness.

With the British offence largely confined to mid-rangers from Olaseni and furtive excursion from Clark, there was to be no rapid turnaround.

Davis Bertans drained back-to-back threes as Prunty, begging a further timeout, asking his team to be more accountable.

The lack of patience and composure was troubling and eleven more consecutive points in a 19-2 underlined the vast difference on the floor.

A three from Teddy Okereafor to close the third was a small indent after GB’s deficit peaked at 84-55 and left what appeared a mission improbable.

But the most unlikely of responses almost happened, and at the very least, there was some fight and pride recouped with a notable rally that even forced Bagatskis to bring back Porzingis.

GB shot 11/16 from the field in the fourth where Johnson scored 13 of his 18 points, and the Olympian ignited an 19-4 run over a 5-minute spell as Latvia’s concentration disintegrated.

Held to just two field goals over the last 7:39 of the contest, their advantage was clinically rubbed away to 94-88 with 33 seconds left.

A battling effort, but ultimately just a little too late.

Andrew Lawrence was effective off the bench, notching 11 points and ten assists, with Olaseni completing his third straight double-double here but their late field goals could not tighten the screw closer than five.

And Prunty must now rally his side to face the might of Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallists Serbia on Tuesday afternoon.

“The games have been tough for us,” admitted Okereafor, who had 12 points and nine assists in an efficient playmaking effort. “We haven’t played our best.

“We’ve made comebacks that have showed our fight and showed improvement but we haven’t pulled out the games we wanted to do. It’s been tough but we have to come back ready to play.”

UpdatesGame Stats

Notes: Ben Mockford made his first GB start along side Okereafor, Clark, Murray, Olaseni. “(Nelson) got banged the other day, went out there and warmed up,” Prunty said. “We thought it was the best decision and we’ll see if a little more rest helps him.”

Elsewhere, Russia effectively qualified for the last 16 after they remained unbeaten with a 76-67 win over Belgium behind 20 points from Alexey Shved.

While Serbia held off a fourth quarter rally from co-hosts Turkey to win 80-74.

Today
EuroBasket, Group D (Istanbul). Great Britain 92 Latvia 97, Belgium 67 Russia 76, Turkey 74 Serbia 80

Standings: 1. Russia (3-0), 2. Serbia (2-1), 2. Latvia (2-1), 4. Turkey (1-2), 5. Belgium (1-2), 6 Great Britain (0-3)

Photos: Mansoor Ahmed

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