Lithuania to everyone else in the basketball world – “Give me that respect!”

The 2010 FIBA silver-medal winning Turkish national team had their dreams for a place at the podium crushed by the likes of Lithuania

The 2010 FIBA silver-medal winning Turkish national team had their dreams for a place at the podium crushed by the likes of Lithuania.

A perennial contender in international competition , team LT is back in contention for a medal even though they’re missing some very key players. They’ve somehow managed to figure out a way to win all but 1 of their games.

Turkey came into this quarterfinal game with the swagger of a team that had given the toughest fight to team USA in the tournament so far. They only lost to them by 21 points, 98:77 and were even leading at halftime .

Lithuania however came out strong going down low to their go-to , post-scoring option Jonas Valančiūnas.

He scored 6 points right away before the Turks knew what hit them. Turkey implemented their offense though and settled down. They took the lead 18-10 , which was the largest of the game for them.

Enter Lithuania’s sharp-shooting big man Darjuš Lavrinovič late in the first off their deep bench . They left him open at their peril and he iced three in a row from three-point land.

By halftime, Lithuania led 33-28 off a devastating game of inside-out basketball . When you have both inside-scoring and outside-shooting in perfect balance, you become a tough team to beat .

Lithuania definitely had the three ball in their favor tonight with Renaldas Seibutis, Martynas Pocius and Jonas Mačiulis all nailing shots from downtown. They ended up going 10/19 from the promised land for the game.

By the second half, Turkey started out like a lion but went out like a lamb.

The Lavrinovičius brothers gave their solid defense and experience for a good part of the half , especially when the youngster JV got a technical for arguing with the official and had to be pulled by coach Kazlauskas. He came back late in the game though and was impactful , getting more inside scores and plenty of key rebounds for team Lithuania.

The depth of team Lithuania was a powerful weapon once again. Once the starters came out for Turkey , that’s when LT went on their runs, in the second and the fourth.

By the end of the game, Turkey’s NBA big-man Omer Asik was visibly exhausted.

Lithuania ripped open a 13 point lead which pretty much held until the end of the game . The final score was 73:61 in LT’s favor and they earned their ticket to the final 4 of the tournament.

The hero of the game was Renaldas Seibutis. He’s really stepped up his game in the absence of Mantas Kalnietis, scoring 19 points and getting 3 assists. He amassed those points on a healthy balance of three-point makes and blow-by’s to the rim.

Jonas Valančiūnas continues to be an inside beast, getting a double-double today (12pts/13 brds)on an efficient 5/9 FG .Other notable contributions came from Martynas Pocius, Jonas Mačiulis and Darjuš Lavrinovičius who all rained down three-pointers and spoiled Turkey’s chance of advancing.

Now Lithuania faces by far it’s toughest challenge to date in unbeaten team USA. They just dispatched Slovenia today after a 70:30 second half in their favor. That was the whole benefit of Lithuania winning dominance in group D over Slovenia; they wouldn’t face USA until the semi-finals. Well now is that time.

No one in Vegas is putting any money on Lithuania to win, I guarantee that. There’s no shame in losing to a team with virtually unlimited NBA talent. But if there’s anyone in this tournament that team USA has traditionally gotten their toughest fight from over the years in international play, it’s the Baltic basketball superpower.

No one can forget USA’s loss to Lithuania in 2004. That American squad ended up getting a disappointing bronze medal that year.

In 2012, Lithuania played USA in the quarterfinals and played them extremely well . They were even leading late in that game but were overcome by the dominance of Carmelo and LeBron. That definitely got USA’s attention. If there’s anyone who’s got a snowballs chance in hell against team USA, it’s Lithuania.

Whatever happens happens, it’s been an unbelievable run for them so far. They are one of the top four basketball teams on the planet earth!

A nation of only 3 million which treats basketball with the holy reverence of a religion has the world’s respect in that sport no matter what happens Thursday.

Coach Kazlauskas needs to get his team to just play the way that got them here and good things will happen.

 

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