The Houston Rockets stretch power forward Donatas Motiejunas and Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas provided the inside out offense and twin towers defense that held Greece at bay in the first half as Lithuania cruised to an easy 86-67 victory in what looked like a high intensity friendly exhibition game early on.
Valanciunas opened the scoring at the rim on a nice feed from Mantas Kalnietis and with Lithuania’s big center controlling the paint, Motiejunas was free to roam for open jumpers. The Greeks did find something of an answer for Valanciunas in their 32-year-old 7’1 280 lb center Andreas Glyniadakis who was physically strong enough and experienced enough to box out Valanciunas, however, Lithuania was in complete control with their two young big men on the court and took a 39-35 lead into the half. Motiejunas had 12 points at the break and Valanciunas had 8 points.
Lithuania’s veteran stretch center Darjušas Lavrinovičius was quietly having an impact as well with 6 points in limited minutes and Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas must have noticed something about the Greek defense (or he just wanted to experiment) as he sat both his young bigs to start the second half to play his version of small ball with Lavrinovičius manning the middle. The ploy worked better than anyone could have anticipated from watching the first half as the faster paced Lithuanian lineup demolished the Greek defense running up a 20-6 advantage before Kazlauskas went back to his starting big men. Lavrinovičius scored 8 more points to finish with 14 points in 12.5 minutes in a change of pace role that should prove difficult to adjust to when the World Cup starts in a couple of weeks.
The two teams essentially traded baskets the rest of the way.
Prior to the game Coach Kazlauskas had mentioned Valanciunas was playing on a sore heel, however, there were no adverse effects noticeable as the big man set screens and showed out to the three-point line on defense with his usually efficiency. Valanciunas was restricted to just over 21 minutes in this game and there really wasn’t any need for him to have played even that long. The Raptors center had 14 points and 6 boards and made a pretty high-low play in the second half feeding an open Motiejunas as he arrived at the rim.
Where Motiejunas was having a great night playing off of Valanciunas and finished with a game-high 18 points and 7 rebounds on 6-10 shooting from the field, it wasn’t nearly as easy for him once the Greek defenders did not have to worry about guarding Valanciunas inside. The style of play Motiejunas has been thriving in with Lithuania should put him in very good stead when he gets back to Houston and can play off the All-Star Dwight Howard’s dominance in the post.
Greece was led by the one-time Raptors draft asset Giorgos Printezis. The 29-year-old 6’9 stretch power forward had 14 points and was 2-3 from three-point range. Printezis draft rights were recently acquired by the Atlanta Hawks from the Thunder.
Lithuania plays again on Sunday versus New Zealand. The World Cup opens in Spain on August 30.