Gigi Datome and Italbasket close with a knockout loss
Italy ends the basketball World Cup with a loss, finishing in eighth place after being beaten 89-85 by the Slovenia of an agitated Luka Doncic. Gigi Datome, in his last game as a basketball player, is moved to tears during the performance of the Mameli anthem after collecting 203 national team appearances and scoring 1,766 points. Coach Pozzecco fields his favorite lineup, bringing Fontecchio back on the court. Italy starts well, getting a +4 lead thanks to Melli and Fontecchio. Tonut is able to control Doncic and Polonara makes his mark with four points that bring the score to 12-4. Slovenia reacts thanks to its star, but falls behind and the first quarter ends with the score 18-15 for Italy. In the second quarter, Italbasket starts in a disconcerting way, suffering a 5-0 partial (20-18). Spissu brings Italy back into the lead with a triple and scores the high point during this period (34-28), proving to be very effective from three-point range and taking advantage of Doncic’s rest. However, Doncic returned to the court and put his team back in the lead, ending the first half on the score of 42-41 in favor of Slovenia.
The third quarter turns out to be a stretch for Slovenia, with number 77 very inspired and inspiring for his teammates: he scores 29 points, 8 assists and 10 rebounds. Triples by Hrovat and Tobey bring the Slovenian lead to +8, while Datome returns to the court and scores his only point of the game. Italy continued to struggle with three-point shooting and slipped to a 63-50 score, before recovering thanks to Spissu (70-60). In the fourth period, Fontecchio returned to the court continuously after being absent in the previous game due to a flu, and Italy stepped up its performance. The Utah Jazz player drags us up to the score of 70-73 and puts Doncic in crisis, who is blocked by Melli, who is good at reducing the gap to only -1 (72-73). The Slovenian star again brings the lead to +4, but Fontecchio and Spagnolo bring the score back to even; on'76-76. With 3'26" to go, an emotional Gigi Datome bid farewell to his career by leaving the court through tears, applauded by teammates and opponents alike, receiving a standing ovation from the Mall of Asia in Manila. His exit from the court did not distract Italy, which kept itself in the game and tied thanks to Spissu until 83-83. In the finale, the Azzurri even took the lead (85-83), but then wasted the last plays: Cebasek’s triple and free throws by Hrovat and Dragic sealed Slovenia’s 89-85 victory. Spissu's 22 points and Fontecchio's 16 were not enough for Italy's victory, which ends the World Cup in eighth place. Gigi Datome’s career therefore ends with 10'25" on the court, one point scored and one loss.