Belgium might be the de facto capital of the European Union, but Lithuania showed that we are very much the current President.
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Belgium started well and even led late in the first half at 12 – 11, but from then on all traffic went the way of Lithuania.
It was a beating based on defence, and coach Kazlauskas said after the game that the early form of the Belgians did not faze him because they were containing the opposition and simply missing a few open shots.
For me they were still too eager to shoot from range early in the offence, but once Lithuania settled, well they just started showing off.
Lithuania were ahead as many as 35 points early in the fourth quarter, but Kazlauskas lamented that as good as the first 35 minutes were, the last five were twice as bad, and he actually apologised to fans for the poor ending.
In fact Belgium added 32 points in the final stanza, most of it in those last five minutes, after only scoring 35 in the first three quarters combined.
Kazlauskas further said that overall the players were starting to understand their roles in the team, and they now see what they can achieve if they put their egos aside.
Today Lithuania stuck to their game plan, didn’t rush, found the open man and ran the fast break. It was excellent basketball that took away any hope the Belgians might have had, except for that last five minutes of course when the team started to play individually again.
Kazlauskas said there were still a lot of problems that they needed to work on, but generally we was quite happy with the last two games.
Motiejunas made the best of his minutes top scoring with 13 points. Again our scoring was well spread throughout the team with seven players scoring seven or more.
Kuzminskas was enjoying extra court time again and added a dozen of his own, as did Valanciunas.
Valanciunas made the most of limited minutes pulling down 10 boards and blocking a shot during his 13 minutes of court time.
He collected a whack on the head in the first quarter and was taken off for the blood rule in the fourth, but team management assures us that a few stitches at the stadium has sorted out the cut and there is no on-going problem.
As the 86 – 67 scoreline suggests, Lithuania dominated, and a closer look at the stats shows we were well ahead in nearly every area.
Points in the paint were 40 – 22, points from turnovers 21 – 15, second chance points 20 – 9 and bench points 54 – 40. The only category we didn’t dominate was fast-break points which went to Belgium 9 – 8.
And the added bonus in the group was that Ukraine defeated Serbia, and we move to top spot, leaving us needing just a good win over Ukraine to hopefully finish group leader.
But with Ukraine just having defeated the highly fancied Serbia, Lithuania cannot relax. Before yesterday’s surprise win, much of the press was calling the encounters between Belgium and Ukraine nothing more than training runs, but I’m sure Kazlauskas won’t let complacency creep in. Especially after he just read the team the riot act after a 19 point victory.
One more game before the knock-out stage begins, let’s hope the team is finding form at the sharp end of the tournament and still has a bit left in the bank for us.
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