Latvia produced a strong fourth quarter to meet the expectations of their home fans with a 78-67 EuroBasket 2015 Group D victory against Belgium in Riga on Saturday.
Turning Point: Following hot on the heels of a Dairis Bertans three-pointer and a huge block by Rolands Freimanis on Axel Hervelle, Kristaps Janicenoks completed a four-point play to open up a 61-54 Latvian advantage with 7:17 remaining. Not only was this edge enough to see the hosts over the line, but the dominant sequence re-established the confidence that had begun to waver when Belgium took the lead late in the third period.
Stats Don't Lie: Latvia connected on their first four three-pointers of the final stanza on their way to shooting 8-of-22 from long range in total. As those shots began to fall, belief began to grow, in the stands as well as on the floor.
Game Hero: Janicenoks scored 14 points for Latvia off 3-of-4 three-point shooting, but it was the timing of his offensive contributions, as much as the total, which helped his team win this one. The 32-year-old was the one the hosts looked to when they really needed to score, or with the shot clock winding down, and more than often than not he came up with the goods.
The Bottom Line: Contending with the pressure of playing in front of an expectant home crowd is part of the battle for Latvia at this competition and they came through this first test, despite a third-quarter wobble. There were positives for Belgium to build on, however, as Hervelle and Sam Van Rossom demonstrated their appetite for the fight and they will aim to improve against Estonia on Sunday.