It was a different team from Lithuania that played on Wednesday in their first game of the second round and they upset a high scoring team from France 76-62. The effort was better defensively from the Lithuanians, however, France did help out their opponent’s cause by shooting themselves out of this game instead of taking advantage of their athleticism.
Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas got the faster pace game that he likes to play, but fortunately, Lithuania went inside on drives and passes more often and more effectively than France. The end result was Lithuania won this contest from the free throw line as they sunk 19 of 23 attempts compared to 5 of 9 for France. Both teams shot poorly from outside, even though it didn’t appear to dissuade either of them from continuing to jack up unnecessary three-balls, Lithuania hit on 5-19 and France was 5-21 from long range.
Martin Pupininkas Basketnews.lt reported on Kazlauskas comments after the game.
“I am very pleased to have won a game at the European Championship against one of the strongest teams,” Kazlauskas said. But we know that it has just begun. We have to forget this victory and think about our other opponents.
“We knew that the French have averaged 80 points during the tournament and this time we allowed them just 62 points. Today we are really satisfied that we have followed the game plan, satisfied that we did it from the beginning to the end.”
Linas Kleiza led Lithuania in minutes with 36 and plus/minus at 20 on 2-9 shooting for 11 points to go with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Kleiza sunk 2 of Lithuania’s 5 three-pointers.
Jonas Valanciunas scored 13 points on 6-6 from the field in 16 minutes together with 6 rebounds, a block and a steal and the game turned late in the first quarter after Valanciunas was subbed in with the score 10-9. He came out 3 minutes into the second quarter with his team up 22-12. Valanciunas provided Lithuania a presence in the paint that France simply couldn’t handle.
Renaldas Seibutis led Lithuania in scoring with 15 points. The 23-year-old forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas provided some excitement with his runs to the rim as he scored 10 points.
France literally shot themselves out of this ball game as they only hit on 40 percent of their field goal attempts. Nando De Colo led France with 12 points, Tony Parker had 11 points, Alexis Ajinca 10 points and Nicolas Batum 8 points.
Lithuania should be happy with the win and Kazlauskas can be happy with the executed game plan, but this team can’t afford to be hoisting close to 20 three-pointers a game and expect the same result every time. They just do not shoot the ball from range well enough and before this tournament is over, they will play teams that hit their shots from distance. Lithuania got lucky France’s shooters were cold or today’s game could have turned out very differently.
Lithuania road to the next round gets a little easier temporarily. They crushed Belgium twice in friendlies at the beginning of August and will play them again on Friday. On Sunday, Lithuania plays the Ukraine who just lost by 34 points to Latvia.
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. You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors