Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas had a huge game for Lithuania in a quarter-finals match against Italy at Eurobasket 2015. Valanciunas posted a game-high 26 point 15 rebound double-double in the 95-85 overtime victory.
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A big win for Lithuania was an even bigger win for the Raptors as Valanciunas was forced to cover Italy’s stretch-five Andrea Bargnani for nearly the entire 38.5 minutes both players were on the court. While Bargnani had a team high 21 points, he was held to just 36.4 percent shooting from the field, 1-7 from three-point range and just 5 boards and 0 assists as Valanciunas was effective defending the perimeter, grabbing rebounds and imposing his will on the inside. Valanciunas shot 11-13 from the field, even hitting on a couple of mid-range jump shots in the fourth quarter over a surprised Bargnani.
Ball in Europe’s Emmet Ryan described Valanciunas’ dominance:
Jonas Valanciunas utterly dominated Andrea Bargnani from the start. Here, he was back to his best and laid waste to the Italian center for three quarters.
(Coach) Simone Piangiani however was determined to keep Bargs matched up on Valanciunas. When JV sat, so too did his shadow. When he was in, back came Bargs. Given how one-sided this contest was proving it cut out the Italian advantage inside. Bargs tried to get a little bit chippy inside by JV isn’t the kid he once was. Valanciunas took the first shot and was ready to defend himself the next time Bargnani thought about it. The Italian wisely backed off. At the half Bargnani was getting handily dealt with by JV.
There was nowhere to hide Valanciunas on defense in this game as Bargnani was paired with stretch-four Danilo Gallinari who played over 39 minutes and was the more effective of the Italian big men. Gallinari finished with 17 points on 5-11 shooting, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
This was precisely the type of matchup the Raptors need Valanciunas to become comfortable and effective playing against if he is to start getting the fourth quarter minutes they want him to play in the NBA against small ball and non-traditional lineups.