2023 FIBA World Cup

World Cup Standouts Day 8: Karl-Anthony Towns, Luka Doncic run wild

Take a look at the players who stood out the most during FIBA World Cup play on Sept. 1.

Simone Fontecchio powered Italy’s comeback win over Serbia with 30 points and seven rebounds.

Friday’s games at the FIBA World Cup were the openers for second-round play as all of the teams competing were seeking quarterfinal spots. Four teams — the United States, Germany, Lithuania and Slovenia — clinched quarterfinal berths by the day’s end, while the teams that didn’t clinch a spot were, in general, looking to make a smoother path for themselves in Sunday’s final run of second-round games. However, after Friday’s results, Australia, Greece, Georgia and Montenegro are all out of quarterfinal contention. Keep in mind that the results of the first three games each team played in the first round carry over into the second round.

Here’s a look at who stood out on that stage in Friday’s second-round games of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

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Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominican Republic
Tremont Waters, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico handed the Dominican Republic its first loss of the FIBA World Cup in a 102-97 thriller that featured two outstanding performances. Towns put on a showcase of all his NBA All-Star skills, finishing with 39 points (on 13-for-27 shooting), 10 rebounds and two blocks. He was strong all game, but Puerto Rico’s defense tightened on him late in the fourth quarter and his 3-point attempt to tie the game with 24 seconds left was contested and missed.

As for Waters, the former journeyman NBA guard was a force as well. He had 37 points (on 11-for-22 shooting), seven rebounds, 11 assists and four steals. He was clutch again in the fourth quarter with his shooting and passing and has Puerto Rico in the thick of the chase for a quarterfinals berth. The Dominican Republic plays Serbia and Puerto Rico plays Italy on Sunday in what is now a four-way tie in Group I and sets up two must-see games on Sunday.

Luka Doncic, Slovenia

Another game, another solid showing for Doncic, who helped Slovenia to a 91-80 win vs. Australia. Doncic kept his standout World Cup play going with a 19-point, seven-rebound, six-assist game to wrap up a spot in the quarterfinals. While Slovenia remains perfect in FIBA play with the victory, Australia fell to .500 and is out of contention for the World Cup title with its loss. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey (25 points) and Atlanta Hawks guard Patty Mills (17 points) were both solid for Australia in defeat.

Simone Fontecchio, Italy

In a stunning outcome to open play on Friday, Italy scored a 78-76 win vs. Serbia thanks to Fontecchio’s monster game. The Utah Jazz forward finished with 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting and 6-for-8 at the line as well as seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. Serbia had scored three blowout wins in the first round and was on its way to another romp. But behind Fontecchio, Italy rallied from a 16-point deficit and cranked up its defense to win. Fontecchio came up with several clutch shots late in the game, including a runner in the paint with 33.9 left to seal the win. Next up for Italy is a game vs. Puerto Rico on Sunday in both teams’ second-round finale.

Anthony Edwards, USA

Much like Serbia, the U.S. team had rolled through its first-round foes but faced a stiffer challenge against Montenegro in the second round. After falling behind 38-37 in the first half, Edwards took charge after halftime to power an 85-73 victory. That win, coupled with Lithuania’s victory against Greece, clinched a quarterfinals berth for Team USA. As for Edwards, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ star finished with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the second half after going 0-for-5 in the first. He had a clutch steal-and-dunk sequence late in the fourth quarter that helped the U.S. pull away. Team USA will face Lithuania on Sunday to close out second-round play.

Yago Santos, Brazil

A player with zero NBA experience made it look easy down the stretch against Canada’s NBA-rich lineup in Brazil’s 69-65 upset win. Santos has led Brazil in scoring throughout the World Cup and finished with just eight points against Canada. But he scored half of his points late in the fourth quarter in clutch fashion as both of his baskets came on a pair of driving layups in the final 1:14 that helped seal the victory. Former NBA big man Bruno Caboclo was dominant as well, finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for Brazil. Canada, which was previously undefeated in the World Cup, takes on Spain in a key matchup on Sunday. Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was solid in the loss, finishing with 23 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Davis Bertans, Latvia

Nursing a 65-63 lead after an 11-point comeback, Latvia was on the cusp of victory when Bertans stepped up. He hit a key and-1 layup, nailed a crucial 3-pointer and produced a strong overall finish to power a 74-69 upset of defending champion Spain. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward had 16 points (on 4-for-9 shooting), three rebounds, a steal and a block in 34 minutes. Despite the loss, Spain can control its own destiny on Sunday vs. Canada while Latvia has a decent shot at its first quarterfinal berth in Sunday’s game vs. Brazil.