Lasmanis’ epic title winner fuels Riga’s confidence ahead of FIBA 3x3 World Tour Jeddah Final
DOHA (Qatar) – With the Doha Masters on the line, Karlis Lasmanis surveyed his options from well beyond the arc.
None appealed, so he decided to go for broke despite Stefan Kojic playing almost perfect defense. He jabbed left to get Kojic off balance and then launched from the 3x3 logo over the Serb's outstretched hand.
"It was reflex. I just saw the opportunity," Lasmanis said. "I knew it was good when I took it. It felt right. You can feel it.”
His instincts proved correct as the ball swished through the net to cap Riga's incredible 21-20 comeback victory and title defense in Doha. It's simply one of the greatest ever game winners in 3x3 history.
"I can't believe that he made the bucket like that," sidekick Nauris Miezis said. "After an amazing comeback nothing is better to close the game with a shot like that…crazy!"
There's good reason Lasmanis is called 'Batman'. When the stakes are raised, he puts on his cape and provides the heroics for Riga. In the final against world No.1 Liman, the left-hander scored a game-high 11 points and came up big when the Latvians were in a major hole trailing 20-15.
Being a superhero never gets old for the 26-year-old. "It was amazing. I still can't believe it and I've watched the shot a few times now," he said.
The triumph over their rival was significant for Riga, who levelled Liman with two Masters for the season ahead of the World Tour Final in Jeddah next month. "It was very important to beat them, so we could be level at two each and just the manner in which we did it I think gives us extra confidence," Lasmanis said.
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Lasmanis owned the big stage in Doha, but it was 'Robin' who dominated the earlier games en route to collecting the MVP. Miezis led Riga team in rebounds, key assists and player value. The 6ft3in (1.90m) player had a jaw-dropping performance in the quarter-finals against Bielefeld LFDY, where he recorded a triple-five with 5 points, 8 rebounds and 8 highlights (including 5 key assists).
The No.2 ranked player in the world is the ultimate team man highlighted by his belief that sharpshooter Edgar Krumins - who was the tournament's equal top-scorer with 34 points - should have walked away with the MVP. Even though he is incredibly humble, Miezis is a steely competitor and wants to be 3x3's best.
"The No.1 player status and to be the best is every athlete’s goal," he said. "But it's a team game and we share in the success together."
The superstars turn their attention to 3x3's showpiece event where Riga will be aiming to claim their first World Tour Final title. They finished runners-up to Novi Sad in 2018 and then fell again to the Serbs a year later in the semis.
For the past two years, Riga have threatened to overtake Novi Sad and Liman as 3x3's gold standard but the torch might well be handed to these lovable Latvians if they win in Jeddah.
"I believe we can win in Jeddah because we are all in really good physical condition," Lasmanis said. "We're not thinking about Novi Sad or Liman. It's about us training hard, improving and playing as well as we can."
This tough year, where the World Tour didn't start until late August due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has strengthened the resolve of Riga.
"It was tough to stay in shape during the lockdown and have the motivation when there wasn't competition," Lasmanis said. "But what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. This year has made us stronger.
"We are very hungry."
That's a scary prospect for Riga's rivals in Jeddah.