Ed’s Note: This is a guest post by William Lou.
The Latvians entered the game 2-0 (defeating Bosnia and Herzegovnia, and Montenegro). They averaged 79.5 points per game and were first in Eurobasket 2013 in three pointers made per game.
Jonas Valanciunas gets the start at centre following his stellar performance against Macedonia. He was brought off the bench against Macedonia, but he clearly played his way back into the starting lineup.
The Latvians opened the match with a long jumper (was a three-pointer, but foot was on the line). They followed it up by showing zone on their first defensive possession, which the Lithuanians had not faced thus far in this tournament.
Lithuania looked to Jonas Valanciunas to beat the zone. He caught the ball on a post up on the left block (his preferred spot), and was immediately double-teamed by his man and a help defender. Jonas was able to split the double with his strength. He drew a foul and sunk both free throws. Jonas would go on to tax the Latvian bigs who had neither the strength, nor the length to contain Jonas on offense.
Jonas posted up for a second time, but was looked off my Linas Kleiza (yet another reason that amnestying Kleiza made sense). On his third post-up, JV caught the ball in the lane, and was met by two defenders. He gathered himself and rose straight up, and shot a strange two-handed dunk-layup shot which managed to go down. He also dunked off a nice pick-and-roll [16 second mark].
He checked out at around the three-minute mark, visibly gassed, only to be reinserted two minutes later. He drew yet another foul on a battle for a defensive rebound which put Latvia in the penalty. Jonas would knock down both free throws. He ended the first with 8 points scored, and the Latvians shot a grand total of one shot from within the paint. I wish there were publicly available shot-charts for this game, because it would be hilarious.
Jonas started the second quarter for the “Baltic Giants” (nickname for Lithuanians; wasn’t that an entry for the Raptors rebrand?). He posted up on the left block but travelled when he went to his shot fake. He grabbed two more rebounds, drew a foul and checked out at the 7 minute mark. The Lithuanians went on a run because the Latvian defense fell apart and started allowing open threes and layups.
Valanciunas checked back in at the 4 minute mark. He produced a tremendous block on a layup attempt off a pick and roll. He rotated quickly and met his man at the apex of his shot. On the offensive end, the Lithuanians went to a 2/5 pick and roll which resulted in two free throws for JV (missed both). The Lithuanians rode the momentum into halftime leading 39-31.
Latvia started the second half with a small-ball lineup of 4 wings and one big. They also diversified their offense by running more pick and rolls. Jonas was beat a few times, but he did recover nicely on one occasion to block the ball handler on a layup attempt.
Jonas was subbed out at the 7 minute mark and the Latvians proceeded to parade to the basket. They rode the momentum and tied the game at one point. Their shot attempts came mostly at the rim off pick-and-rolls with the bigs finishing some tough baskets at the rim.
Valanciunas was visibly tired to begin the fourth, and his fatigue translated into poor play. He committed two silly fouls on defense (once on a rebound, another on post defense) and lacked the lift to sink a short jumper near the baseline. He was taken out at around the 7 minute mark but was reinserted into the lineup two minutes later to close out the game. He grabbed some few key rebounds, scored on a nice putback and the Lithuanians improved to 2-1 on the tournament with a 67-59 win over the Latvians.
Jonas finished the game with 11 points on 3/5 shooting and 5/8 from the line. He led all players with 10 rebounds (2/8) and a block in 24 minutes. He committed 3 fouls and 2 turnovers. He drew a ridiculous 6 fouls against the Latvians.
Jonas saw the largest share of the offense in this game. In previous games against Serbia and Macedonia, Jonas was looked off on many pick and rolls and post-ups. Today, he was frequently featured in the post (mostly from the left block) and he was money in the pick and roll.
Valanciunas continued to struggle with his jumpshot. He missed a short jumper from the baseline (although it was late in the 4th and this was the third game of a back-to-back-to-back). He was also given a wide open jumper from the free-throw line, but he tried instead to drive to the rack against 2 defenders. This resulted in a turnover.
However, he did continue to show a good touch around the basket. The Lithuanian head coach was about to sub out Jonas for offense-defense purposes (Jonas providing the defensive side of the platoon), but Jonas showed enough with his offensive rebounding and his defense to justify his time on the floor.
Latvia’s offense featured a lot of small-ball which forced Jonas to move away from the basket. He did an admirable job closing out on three-point attempts. By my count, he was forced to close out on three occasions; his man drove by him once and missed twice, .
Jonas was solid once again in the post. He blocked two shots (although one was uncredited for some reason) and heavily dissuaded the Latvians from shooting at the rim. The Latvians took very few (like, less than 5) shots in the paint when he was
The two-man combo of Motiejunas and Valanciunas is money. I sincerely hope that Ujiri is constantly working the phones to swing a trade for Motiejunas (like this trade, for example, only with Motiejunas instead of Jones). They form an excellent inside-out duo and deserve more minutes.
Valanciunas continues to wreck havoc on opposing front line. He drew a team leading 6 fouls against the Latvians who seemed to perpetually be in the penalty.
Finally, Jonas showed a little better sense of timing on pick and rolls. He was still a little jumpy and out of position, but he showed great timing with Kalientis (#5, Lithuania’s best wing player and leading scorer).
Lithuania’s next game is this Sunday at 3 pm. They will play Montenegro (1-2). You can find the match on ESPN3 and you definitely cannot find an illegal stream on atdhe.eu. It’s not possible. Nope.