New Zealand Tall Blacks had unbeaten Lithuania on the ropes through three-quarters of Sunday’s friendly exhibition game, taking a 23-18 first quarter lead and milking it for a 58-55 advantage going into the final period. However, the fourth quarter belonged to the Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas who took control of the game and overwhelmed a very effective Tall Blacks defense to help Lithuania escape with the 85-79 victory.
Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas had given his leading scorer, Donatas Motiejunas, from Saurday’s win over Greece the game off and was relying on significant minutes from the veteran twin brothers Darjušas and Krzysztof Lavrinovičius.
While at 34-years-old Darjušas is still an effective stretch four and scored 12 points even though he shot just 1-5 from three-point range, Krzysztof’s offense is suspect (3 points) and between them they only managed to grab 1 rebound over 33 minutes combined. Not surprisingly, Lithuania was getting hammered on the boards.
Only a huge 15 point fourth quarter from Valanciunas that included 11 points in a row gave Lithuania the lead. The young center shot 6-6 from the field and 7-10 from the free throw line.
Lithuania needed some late 4th quarter heroics from Jonas Valančiūnas, who had 19 points, to nip New Zealand 85-79! pic.twitter.com/rLm8IFQYz0
— Beko LKL (@BekoLKL) August 17, 2014
New Zealand was led by 33-year-old forward Kirk Penny with 26 points and 7 boards.
Still unbeaten in friendly competitions this summer, Lithuania plays Slovenia on Monday.