The Phoenix Suns starting point guard Goran Dragic led Slovenia past this summer’s unbeaten Lithuania 74-72 in a game that came down to big plays and mistakes at the end. This was the second meeting of these two teams in a week and in Lithuania’s 80-76 win on Monday, Slovenia gave Goran Dragic the day off to rest and this time, the Raptors starting center Jonas Valanciunas didn’t play for Lithuania.
On Monday, Slovenia got off to 44-36 halftime lead, but Valanciunas and the FIBA veteran Paulius Jankunas wrested control back in the second half to steal the victory. Dragic wasn’t missed as much as might have been expected as everyone on Slovenia shared the ball and they had 5 more assists than Lithuania. The veteran Miha Zupan led Slovenia with 18 points on 4-5 shooting from three-point range. Valanciunas and Jankunas had 14 points each.
On Saturday, Lithuania got off to another slow start, trailing 42-35 at the half, however, this time they didn’t have the firepower to get all the way back. Veteran wing Domen Lorbek led Slovenia with 18 points and Dragic and 10 points and 4 assists. Mantas Kalnietis, Darjušas Lavrinovičius, and the Rockets Donatas Motiejunas had 15 points each for Lithuania.
Playing catch-up all day, Kalnietis scored a layup with 2.5 minutes left to pull Lithuania to within three points and on the next play, he drilled the three-pointer to tie the game at 71. Lithuania had their chances to take the lead, but Dragic picked off a bad pass from Motiejunas and fed Klobucar for the game-winning three-point basket with 55 seconds left.
With 40 seconds to go, Kalnietis went to line for two shots on what would have been an and-one opportunity in the NBA and split a pair and then Motiejunas missed the potential game-tying layup with 6 seconds remaining to end the game.
Slovenia and Lithuania will meet again in Group D at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. If you suspect their respective head coaches have held something back during the past two meetings, you would be on solid ground.
Lithuania plays in their final friendly match on Tuesday against Croatia.