José Pekerman is an Argentinean soccer coach who led the National Team in the 2006 World Cup, and his team fell in the quarterfinals, but he was remembered for one particular thing. Argentina had on their roster a player called Lionel Messi, who Pekerman never used. Messi watched his team lose to Germany from the bench as he never entered the game.
Six years later, and in a totally different sport, Lithuania’s basketball head coach, Kestutis Kemzura is doing a great Pekerman impression. I’m not saying that Jonas Valanciunas will be the world’s best player in a few years, but when you have one of the most promising young centers on the roster and your team is getting abused in the rebounding battle, maybe you should give him some playing time.
Valanciunas started for his team and made the first basket of the game for Lithuania. He scored four points on 2/3 from the floor until he committed his second personal foul with 5 minutes remaining in the first. When he was subbed out, he had scored half of his team’s points.
He sat the rest of the quarter and the entire second quarter while Lithuania recovered a deficit and went to halftime with a four point advantage. He started the third quarter but after France tied the game with two minutes played in the quarter, coach Kemzura took him out. Jonas didn’t see the light of day again. It was a strange move by Lithuania’s coach as France started to dominate the paint at the third, winning the quarter 20-9. Lithuania lost the rebounding battle 38 to 29 with one of the best rebounders on the team watching from the sidelines.
Jonas Valanciunas finished with four points (2/3 FG; 0/1 FT), two fouls and a blocked shot in seven minutes played. This time it wasn’t foul trouble that kept him from playing, it was a coach’s decision. Linas Kleiza was the team’s best player with 17 and 7 despite fouling out in 29 minutes, as Lithuania fell to 1-2 with two games remaining. On Saturday they’ll face USA, who destroyed Nigeria with a record setting 156–73 win. Two day later, they will finish the first round against Tunisia. All signs indicate that Lithuania will finish fourth and will have to face the first seed from Group B in the quarterfinals.
In other results, Spain escaped with a win against Great Britain with a great performance by Jose Calderon. The Raptors point guard scored 19 and the team’s last 8 points including six crucial consecutive free throws when the locals got back in the game. The final score was 79-78. Luol Deng and Joel Freeland combined for 51 points on 39 of the team’s 65 shots.
USA abused Nigeria by 83 in an unprecedented game. Nigeria isn’t this bad; actually they’re an athletic and young team who could bring problems to some contenders. It was the style they played that made the huge difference. They played a fast-pace up-and-down game and nobody in the world is better in that department than Team USA.
The best game of the day was Brazil-Russia. The Europeans won an exceptional match, probably the best game of the tournament so far. It was decided on the last possession by Fridzon:
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