Neal Maloney | The Lithuania Tribune
Lithuania came up short despite a late-game rally that got them within striking distance. It wasn’t enough however in the end. The final score was 83:74. Without many expecting them to win they showed a lot of heart and why they got one of the deepest benches in the league.
Early in the game France got off to a quick start, taking control of the game early. Then a spark off the bench by the name of Martynas Pocius came in and went off on France after Rimantas Kaukenas got into foul trouble. Going 5/5 and ending the half with 13 points , you weren’t sure whether he was going to shoot the three or explode to the rim. The Lithuanian team ended the half up by four 43:39.
In the second half Lithuania went on a shooting drought going 2 for 11 and ending the third quarter with a paltry nine points. It didn’t help matters that the French team’s NBA talented roster led by San Antonio star Tony Parker and Portland Trailblazer Nicolas Batum did what they do best. That is finding many creative ways to hurt you. They ended the game with a combined 48 points. Lithuania early in the half could not get a basket to save their life with Kleiza being their primary scorer and Kemzura once again not having much faith in star prospect Jonas Valanciunas. He only played seven minutes the entire game. Lithuania was 6/21 beyond the three-point line with many of them hasty , late shot-clock heaves to the basket that were off the mark.
The fourth quarter brought a rally for the scrappy challengers but it was too little , too late. Kleiza had a couple three point plays off fouls committed while attacking the basket and Simas Jasaitis nailed a couple of threes as well. They were down 14 points though, and cutting that deficit in half was about the closest they came. They never gave up until the bitter end with Kleiza knocking his NBA colleague Tony Parker to the ground with 3.4 seconds left in the game on a hard pushing foul. France definitely got a feisty game from Lithuania who wasn’t about to lie down for a second.
The only two players in double figures for Lithuania were Martynas Pocius who had a phenomenal 18 points off the bench and Linas Kleiza with his usual consistent play, he scored 17 points. Jonas Valanciunas played a mere seven minutes and it begs the question; why doesn’t Kemzura want to use this potential weapon? In those seven minutes, he went 2/3 from the field, having 4 quick points. Yes he did commit two fouls but later in the game towards the end he wasn’t inserted into the line-up at all. Instead Kemzura seemed to prefer new recruit , Antanas Kavaliauskas who is a capable player but not able to get much going for the team in the way of instant offense. He had 3 points but was played for almost 15 minutes.
Lithuania plays two more games in group play, one is almost a guaranteed loss(team USA), and the other should be an easy victory(Tunisia). This should earn them the fourth seed in the quarterfinals if all goes as planned. They would be wise however not to totally underestimate Tunisia who had a really good first half against team USA although they ended up losing by almost fifty after the dream team got revved up . Nigeria faces the three toughest teams to finish out their group play, and barring some major upsets, they probably will be eliminated from the medal round.
All in all Lithuania stood toe to toe with a solid French team and have nothing to be ashamed of. We’ll see if they bring this type of intensity in their last two games. They actually were one of the few teams in modern history to defeat team USA(2004), when the USA got shamed with the bronze medal. No one is denying it will be an uphill battle going up against the Likes of Lebron , Kevin Durant and the nine other NBA all-stars they will face Saturday.