From dream to nightmare.
Thus, Puerto Rico closed its participation in the FIBA World Cup after falling on Sunday in overtime 94-89 against Italy in Wuhan, China, where the action of Group J. is disputed.
The Puerto Ricans wasted an advantage of up to 26 points after a sublime first half and will now be placed between the positions of 13 to 16 once the second round ends on Monday. Italy, meanwhile, ensures a place from nine to 12.
"It was two (different) games. We weren't intense in the second half," coach Eddie Casiano said at the end of the game.
Puerto Rico, which will play in the Olympic Repechage from June 23 to 28 next year, finished the World Cup contest with a negative record of 2-3 and a disappointing final. His only victories were over the horn against Iran (coming back by 18 points) and Tunisia.
Renaldo Balkman led the offensive with 14 points, followed by Gary Browne and Ángel Rodríguez – coming from the bank – with 13 points each. David Huertas added 11.
With a dreamlike first half thanks to his career game, a balanced offense and excellent defensive management, Puerto Rico was on his way to his first victory over Italy since the Goodwill Games in 1994.
In those first 20 minutes, the national quintet threw for 45 percent in the field and scored 20 points in transition versus three in the European team. In addition, he dominated widely the line of rebounds 30-12, 12 of them offensive. The Puerto Rican bank's reserves dominated 26-0.
Puerto Rico finished with an advantage of 20 points (46-26) against an Italy that was demoralized after its closed setback on Friday against Spain. The Italians, who closed the World Cup with a 3-2 record, did not have Luigi Datome and Alessandro Gentile, two key players in their offensive scheme.
However, everything changed from the sixth minute of the third quarter after a donation from Isaiah Piñeiro that gave Puerto Rico an advantage 59-33.
The national quintet had an offensive and defensive crash that allowed the Italian team to make a spectacular comeback scoring 68 points in the second half. NBA players Marco Belinelli and Danilo Gallinari led the offensive with 27 and 22 points, respectively.
In the blink of an eye, Italy took command 70-68 for the first time in the game by subtracting 5:18 on the partial quarter clock.
Subtracting just 31 seconds the Italians dominated 83-79, but two consecutive Ángel Rodríguez güiras tied the score 83-83 to cause an additional five minutes.
In overtime, a basket of Alexander Franklin returned the advantage to Puerto Rico 85-84 with 3:41. But a güira by Amedeo Tessitori put Italy 86-85 up, which maintained control and tempering until the end despite a last Puerto Rican attempt to once again look for the miracle that this time was not consumed.
"I am proud of the team. We passed the round and competed. We know that we have deficiencies in offense, but we have a heart and we compete. Our players are young and it was a learning experience," concluded the Puerto Rican driver.
Puerto Rico dominated 30-12 in the transition points, 18-11 in second chances, 50-38 in the painting and 42-18 coming from the bank.