Former Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns center 7’2 Hamed Haddadi tried as hard as he could to keep Iran from outright embarrassment as they were losing 80-67 to the far superior team from Lithuania, but this game was never as close as the final score would indicate.
Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas didn’t even start his two NBA players, Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and Rockets Donatas Motiejunas, and four minutes in, all five of his starters had scored and run up a 10-3 lead. By the time Valanciunas and Motiejunas were subbed in, the game had taken on a practice scrimmage feel. Lithuania shot 10/18 in the first quarter as they ran up a 21-11 advantage and Iran’s defense largely consisted of hoping Lithuania would miss.
Midway through the second quarter Iran’s coach was looking blankly at the court and could be heard saying things like: “Simple sets”, “Try to play defense” and “Stay man-to-man” and his admonishments must have had some impact or maybe the Lithuanian players were just having trouble staying focused, but Iran went on a 9-0 run to get back to within 4 points. The push was short-lived, however, Lithuania could score and defend any time they put their minds to it.
Throughout this game there were periods where Haddadi showed why NBA teams were reluctant to give up on the very big center. He has soft hands and can catch and finish at the rim. He had his moments as he drove into Valanciunas a forced a shot over the big Lithuanian center and later faked him out with a nice up-and-under move. Haddadi worked hard at both ends of the court using his size effectively and he picked up the 12 point 10 rebound double-double in 27.5 minutes.
In under 18 minutes, both Valanciunas and Motiejunas scored 8 points. Martynas Pocius led Lithuania with 12 points.
Nikkhah led Iran with 15 points on 5-14 shooting and Iran’s performance could be summed by the team’s final two shots of the game. Kazemi Naeini (8 points, 6 rebounds) missed the uncontested dunk after a nice move to get open and Jamshidi (12 points) missed the three on no one fast break layup attempt in the final 10 seconds.
After a hard fought battle against Brazil on Thursday, this must have felt like a day off for the Lithuanians.
Lithuania plays Slovenia on Saturday.