Lithuanian male National basketball team started yesterday (Saturday) in the right leg its journey to the world cup in Spain. Yesterday, the European vice champions crushed the Latvian team with 93:74 in Šiauliai. “The main goal of the preparation games is to get the team ready for the main event, ” said in an interview to Baltic Review the spokesman of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation Linas Kunigėlis.
From the first minute of the match between Lithuania and Latvia it was clear who will be the winner. Lithuania’s basketball players did almost what they want on the court and took the first quarter with 17 points in front; 27-10.
During the second quarter, Latvia tried to come back. Lithuania, allowed too many opportunities to its opponents who used it and scored 24 points while Lithuania managed to score only 21. The score in the halftime was 48-34 to the home team.
During the third quarter, both teams played offensive game. Finally, it was Lithuania who gets the victory in the quarter. The Lithuanian team scored during the quarter 22 points to the Latvian basket while Latvia scored 21.
In the final quarter the battle continued to be close. Latvia scored 19 points, but couldn’t stop Lithuania that added more 23 points and secured the victory with 19 points advantage; 93-74,
The top scorers for Lithuania were Artūras Graduates who scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, Mindaugas Kuzminskas – 14, Paulius Jankūnas – 13, Deivydas Gailius – 11, Darjuš Lavrinovič – 9, Adas Juškevičius – 7, Renaldas Seibutis, Antanas Kavaliauskas and Šarūnas Vasiliauskas scored 6 points each, Martynas Pocius and Kšištof Lavrinovič added 3 points each.
The Latvian top scorers were Ronalds Smits, who scored 13, Janis Time and Kristaps Kaničenoks who scored 10 points each.
Lithuania accomplished so far one game. 13 games left in the main event: the World Cup in Spain.
Lithuanian Basketball Federation’s spokesman Linas Kunigėlis spoke exclusively to Baltic Review about the plans of the national team
Baltic Review (BR): Do the preparation matches that will take place in Lithuania will include the all members of the national team?
Linas Kinigėlis (LK): We will have the full squad at the beginning of August when the last member – Jonas Valančiunas will join the team.
BR: Lithuania will play 14 matches in 30 days. Some of the matches will be played day after day. It is not too much pressure on the players?
LK: The coach wants them to be in top-shape when World Championship will start in Spain. Also, we have a lot of young guys in the beginning of the preparation so more games gives to the coaches a chance to try those players not only in practices. As for the pressure – in the World Championship, the teams will have to play three games in three days at the group stage, so it is nothing special.
BR: Lithuania will host during August small international tournament in Kaunas. What are the goals of the National team in this home tournament?
LK: The main goal of the preparation games is to get the team ready for the main event. Of course, every player likes winning more than losing, especially in front of the home fans. But nobody will remember victories in friendly games if the team do band in the World Championship.
BR: What is the opinion on the team regarding the Group Stage in the world cup? Lithuania is the favorite to finish this stage as a head of the group. Is it an advantage or disadvantage in the later stages?
LK: It is too early to speak about favorites and outsiders because nobody knows the final rosters of the teams.
BR: Lithuania will face Slovenia in friendly match before the tournament where those teams will face each other. The fact that the teams will play in the Group Stage will not effect on the friendly match? Will it be so “friendly” or the teams will check each other for the “real thing”?
LK: Both teams know each other because they played many times over the past few years, so there is no reason to be afraid of somebody knowing too much about the opponent. Of course. Nobody tries to show their full strength during the friendly games – both coaches will be trying to look at the things in their teams’ game and find the details that need to be fixed and improved.
BR: Linas Kleiza is no longer part of the national team. How this fact will effect on the squad and the goals in the World Cup?
LK: Of course, Linas was a very important part and leader of the National team over the past years. But he has been playing for Lithuania from 2006 with the only exception due to injury in 2011, so he needs some summer off just to get minor injuries healed. And at the same time, players from the newer generation like Donatas Motiejūnas and others have to be ready to play at the highest level. So probably it is time for them to show their potential.
The next exhibition match for Lithuania will be against Georgia. The game will took place in Panevežys this Monday, July 28th at 19:00 Vilnius time.