Finland survive nail-biting Bulgarian comeback in Botevgrad
BOTEVGRAD (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Finland kick-started their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers campaign with a win, seeing off Bulgaria 82-80 in a thrilling encounter in Group F on the road in Botevgrad.
Turning Point: It was a nip-and-tuck affair for the first two quarters, but Antti Kanervo and Jamar Wilson stepped up for the Finns in the third period, fueling an 18-3 run that transformed a 40-39 deficit into a 57-43 lead in a matter of minutes.
Game Hero: Finland's playmaker Jamar Wilson was too much to handle for the Bulgarian side, with the zippy guard doing damage with 20 points, 7 assists, 3 steals and even a blocked shot. He did commit a handful of turnovers, but his contributions far outweighed the somewhat loose ball handling.
Stats Don't Lie: The equation is simple – shots from beyond the three-point arc count for more than the ones inside the line. Finland knocked down 14-of-31 baskets from three-point range for a conversion rate of 45.2 percent, while Bulgaria struggled to find their touch, making just 5-of-18.
Bottom Line: Bulgaria battled hard to erase a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, getting to within a single point in the final minute of the game, but saw multiple attempts to turn the scales their way fall short.
They Said: "It was amazing how guys who have been around the team but hadn't really played stepped up really big. The coach said that if we play some defense and continue to run that will give us a chance to win and some of the young guys came on the floor and made some inspirational plays." – Finnish national team guard Jamar Wilson.
"Congratulations to Finland. They came here and they played their style. Like in the previous tournaments, they played with a lot of outside shooting and scored. The problem with our team was that we lost focus for three or four minutes in the third period, they created a gap and we couldn't recover." – Bulgarian national team forward Stanimir Marinov.