Jonas Valanciunas came off the bench for Lithuania today and put up an easy double-double in 21 minutes and 22 seconds. Belgium couldn’t match up with the Toronto Raptors big center inside as he went 4-5 from the field and swatted two blocks to go with his 12 points and 11 boards. The only player stopping Valanciunas today was Valanciunas as the normally reliable free throw shooter uncharacteristically bricked five of his nine attempts from the free throw line.
While Lithuania made short work of Belgium 66:53 in their second friendly in two days, everything didn’t come as easy as the day before. The score remained close in the first quarter as four of Lithuania’s starters failed to reach double-digits in scoring. The veteran Linas Kleiza went 1-5 from the field for three points and yesterday’s hero, Donatas Motiejunas came off the bench and went was 1-4 for two points. Lithuania expanded their lead to 20 points after three quarters, in large measure due to Belgium’s inability to deal with Valanciunas in the post, but closed to within single-digits with Valanciunas on the bench in the fourth. Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas put his star center back in to close out the game and that ended Belgium’s run.
After playing in the NBA last season and in the NBA Summer League less than three weeks ago, Valanciunas took a few moments to re-acclimatize to the European game. However, defenders being allowed to stay in the paint on defense and live balls on the rim are relatively minor adjustments that will actually make things easier for Valanciunas because of his height and long reach, but today, Valanciunas’ coach had to remind his center about how to play in his system according to Mantas Bertulis BasketNews.lt.
“What’s the difference between a player and the NBA summer league?” Valanciunas said. “I cannot compare, because they are two completely different things. There is a really feel a big difference in the return to Europe. I felt weird when the defense was able to stand under the basket and I’m not bound by the three-second rule. As a result, it is a little easier on defense.”
Typical of these early exhibition games, this contest was poorly played with numerous unnecessary and inappropriate personal fouls, balls being passed to no one, air balls from the free throw line, at least one hilarious flop and some unexplainable turnovers on the court. Belgium was by far the guiltier team of these faux pas but, it was still a good game for Lithuania’s coach to use as a teaching tool ahead of their next friendly on Monday against the Swedish National Team.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.
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