Franz Wagner's Comeback Inspires German Triumph in Quarterfinals vs. Latvia

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Franz Wagner's Comeback Inspires German Triumph in Quarterfinals vs. Latvia
Franz Wagner's Comeback Inspires German Triumph in Quarterfinals vs. Latvia © Teck Lim/Getty Images Sport

In a heart-pounding showdown at the 2023 FIBA World Cup quarterfinals held in Manila, Philippines, Franz Wagner, making a triumphant return after sitting out the previous four games due to a sprained ankle, played a pivotal role in leading Germany to a nail-biting 81-79 victory over Latvia.

The Orlando Magic forward, standing tall at 6-foot-10 and weighing in at 220 pounds, showcased his brilliance as he contributed 16 crucial points, snagged eight rebounds, and dished out three assists off the bench. Wagner's remarkable comeback left spectators in awe, displaying minimal signs of rustiness as he impressively connected on 5-of-8 field goals, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Remarkably, the German team outscored their Latvian opponents by a whopping 19 points during Wagner's time on the court. The turning point of the game occurred when Wagner was injected into the starting lineup at the commencement of the second half, catalyzing a remarkable comeback.

His first basket, a breathtaking step-back 3-pointer with just 50 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, set the tone for what would be a stellar performance. Germany's head coach, Gordie Herbert, couldn't sing enough praises for the impact Wagner had on the game, especially off the bench.

Herbert stated, "I thought Franz really picked us up in the second group. I can’t say enough about our bench tonight. That’s the third or fourth game in a row." With Wagner on the floor, Germany engineered a scintillating 14-1 run in the second half, establishing a commanding double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter.

However, Latvia displayed immense resilience and fought back valiantly. Davis Bertans, who had been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder during the summer from the Dallas Mavericks, missed a potential game-winning three-pointer in the dying seconds of the contest.

Key Player Performances

Not to be overshadowed, Franz's older brother, Moe Wagner, who recently re-signed with the Orlando Magic, also delivered a stellar performance for Germany. He contributed 12 points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from the field, with half of his points coming during the crucial 14-1 second-half surge.

The German point guard, Dennis Schroder, who had been one of the standout performers throughout the tournament, faced an uncharacteristically tough night, making just four of his 26 shot attempts and finishing with nine points.

On the Latvian side, Arturs Zagars led the scoring charts with 24 points, while Bertans contributed 20. Looking ahead, the Wagner brothers will face their Orlando Magic teammate, Paolo Banchero, as Germany squares off against the USA in the semifinals on Friday.

This marks Germany's second-ever appearance in a FIBA World Cup semifinal, with their last appearance dating back to 2002 when they clinched the bronze medal under the leadership of Dirk Nowitzki. In that memorable tournament, FR Yugoslavia emerged as the champions, defeating Argentina in the final, while Germany secured third place by defeating New Zealand in a thrilling encounter.

This exhilarating victory for Germany not only rejuvenates their World Cup dreams but also cements Franz Wagner's status as a true basketball virtuoso, capable of delivering when it matters most on the grandest stage. Stay tuned for what promises to be an electrifying semifinal clash against the USA.