ARTURS Zagars delivered an all-time single game record of 17 assists and Latvia buried Lithuania with an avalanche of three-pointers –16, to be exact — in a lopsided 98-63 win in the FIBA World Cup 2023 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
With a lot of pride at stake in the fifth-place battle, Zagars found the perfect time to showcase his superb individual skills less than four hours after NBA super Luka Doncic did his own show.
Zagars, the 23-year-old guard from Riga, managed only four points but tallied double-double assists for the second time in the tournament with 17 assists against the Lithuanians.
Zagar’s 17 assists in 26 minutes of action shattered the all-time single game record of 15 assists established by Toni Kukoc of Croatia against China in 1994 and matched by Carlik Jones of South Sudan against Angola also in 2023.
“This is the World Cup, the highest stage you can play every four years. This is my first experience with the national team in any kind of tournament. I am so thankful that we could do this,” said Zagars, who also did not commit a turnover, — another record as the first player to end a FIBA World Cup game with 12+ assists while never turning the ball over.
With Zagars orchestrating the plays and making timely passes to his teammates, Latvia took an 11-point lead at halftime, 49-38.
The third quarter score — 28-9 in favor of Latvia — put the exclamation mar
The Latvians caught fire with their three-point shooting to increase the lead to 30 points, 77-47, at the end of the third quarter.
Another three-point bomb fromAigars Škele made it an even bigger bulge, 89-52 with seven minutes left.
Arturs Kurucs topscored for Latvia with 20 points, including six three-pointers, Rolands Šmits added 17 points and six rebounds and Andrejs Gražulis contriubted 12 ponts.
Latvia coach Lucha Banchi had good words for Zagars’ solid World Cup performance where the 6-foot-3 playmaker averaged 12.4 points and 7.4 assists in eight matches.
“I believe Arturs played a solid tournament with a big responsibility. He was in big shoes, as we used to say because it’s his first time in a World Cup, the first time as a starter in a men’s national team, in such a competition,” said Banchi.
“Replacing an iconic player like Janis Strelnieks was not easy. Second game, we lost our captain and our point of reference on the court, but he continued to produce good basketball and to help the team to stay at this level of performance.”
“The team is on a good path to continue, to have improvement and to keep Latvia at a high level and I wish that Arturs will stay healthy and focused and again, show enthusiasm to run the team of this country.”
Rokas Jokubaitis finished with 16 points and NBA veteran Jonas Valanciunas added 15 points and eight rebounds for Lithuania, which was previously unbeaten before the final phase of the tournament.
The loss left Lithuania, a big110-104 winner over the United States earlier in the tournament, in sixth place.