The Lithuanians (3-1) looked to secure a spot in the round-robins as they took on the Bosnians (and Herzegovinians; 1-3). The Bosnians boasted the Brooklyn Nets’ Mirza Teletovic who you’ve never heard of because he’s not very good (in this game, however…).
Jonas Valanciunas got the start for the Lithuanians after coming off the bench in their previous games against Montenegro and Macedonia. The pace was set early in the game; both teams wanted to play up-tempo and to pick up some easy baskets in transition. Unfortunately (for the audience), ten of the world’s worst finishers shared the floor as they seemingly missed more layups than I could keep track of.
Jonas struggled to find touches within Lithuania’s pick-and-roll heavy offense. He reverted back to rolling too soon and he was not open for passes. He posted up on the right block and was met with a double-team. He showed great strength in splitting the double but he failed to finish.
He was taken out at around the five minute mark after having racked up two early fouls (which weren’t his fault; his teammates lost their man and JV had to foul). The game seemed too quick for Jonas as he fell behind very often. He finished the quarter with 0 points on 0/1 shooting with a blocked shot and two fouls. The game was knotted at 18 apiece.
Lithuania began the second with Jonas on the bench. He was brought back in at the seven-minute mark along with Houston’s Motiejunas as the Lithuanian coach desperately shuffled the line-up in hopes of finding a functioning duo to man the front-court. The NBA duo had been successful in previous games, but they put on a poor showing in limited minutes today.
Valanciunas was yanked from the game at the five-minute mark after committing a silly turnover which led to a fast-break basket. He got a stern talking-to from the Lithuanian head coach and was subsequently sent to the end of the bench. He did not return to the floor for the remainder of the match.
The Lithuanians struggled with their interior defense. Bosnia bricked everything from deep but they managed to make up for it by dominating inside (20 out of 26 points in the paint at one point). Bosnia and Herzegovina led 31-30 going into the half.
After trading buckets for the first couple of possessions, Lithuania decided to go zone in the middle of the third to compensate for the complete lack of interior defending (hey, Valanciunas is pretty good at that, why not play him?). This failed miserably as the Bosnians managed to out-hustle the Lithuanians on rebounds which led to a plethora of extra possessions.
Lithuania’s zone defense also conceded some pretty wide-open three pointers which allowed Mirza Teletovic to catch fire. I don’t say this lightly, especially not of a guy who posted a .494 TS% last season, but Lithuania’s defense was so bad that Teletovic turned into Dirk Nowitzki. He was that good in this game. He nailed an dizzying array of three-pointers and helped carry the Bosnians into the final frame with a 5 point lead (57-52).
Teletovic stayed hot going into the fourth. He nailed two threes from 30 feet out (see the shot chart below) and was quite literally un-guard-able. Lithuania switched back to man defense to stem onslaught of three-pointers (which worked for everyone other than Mirza) which led to numerous baskets at the rim.
Bosnia and Herzegovina managed to build their lead to 14 with 5 minutes left on the back of layups and three-pointers. Lithuania managed to claw back and cut it to a 6 point lead but that was as close as they would get as they lost 77-70. Teletovic finished the game with 31 points on 50% shooting from the field.
Despite the loss, Lithuania managed to snag the first seed in their pool with a record of 3-2. They will face Germany in the knock-out stages.
Valanciunas was benched for the entirety of the second half. He finished with 0 points on 0/1 shooting and one rebound in 7 minutes. He blocked a shot, committed a turnover and committed two fouls. He was -6 on the day.
OFFENSE + DEFENSE + MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS
There wasn’t much to take away from today’s game. He continued to be stymied by double teams and he still showed poor timing in pick and rolls. He seemed a step slow on defense, especially in transition. He committed a poor turnover which led to a wide open layup.
What’s most concerning is that he was benched in today’s game. He was the fifth big on the depth chart (every other bigs played in the second half). The Lithuanian head coach shuffled his lineup repeatedly in hopes of finding a functioning front-line, but opted to keep Valanciunas on the bench, even when Lithuania was struggling with their defensive rebounding and rim-protection.
This is both a blessing and a curse for Raptors fans. Obviously we’d like to see him develop and flourish (which he has on multiple occasions), but the benching will also keep him from being overworked. He looked visibly exhausted in his previous game and he was uncharacteristically a step slow in today’s match. We’ll see how this situation unfolds as Lithuania moves to the knock-out stages.
Lithuania will face France at 3 PM EST on Wednesday. You can find the game on ESPN3. Hopefully Valanciunas can bounce back and help Lithuania advance.