Maybe he didn’t get shorted for minutes in this game? Read on to find out. It’s the latest instalment of JonasBasket 2013!
Croatia rode an 8-game winning streak into this semi-final match-up. Their team boasted former and future NBA-ites Bojan Bogdanovic (rights owned by the Nets), Dario Saric (a projected lottery pick in next year’s draft) and Roko Ukic (former Raptors fan-favorite /sarcasm).
Linas Kleiza came out on fire (yes,you read that right). He knocked down a couple of jumpers, hit a few layups and even threw down a pretty sweet two-handed dunk. He finished the first quarter with 17 points, which helped Lithuania jump out to an early 24-17 lead over the Croatians. They lost some of the momentum in the second quarter as the Croatian bigs started to knock down some shots from mid-range. The score was 40-37 at the half in favour of the Baltic Giants.
Lithuania’s quality shined through in the third. The Croatians were stymied by Lithuania’s zone defense and struggled to score. They only mustered a grand total of 8 points in the quarter as Lithuania built their lead to as much as 18. They rode out the rest of the match and secured their spot in the finals with an 77-62 win.
The Lithuanian wings carried their team to victory. The combination of Kleiza (PF), Mantas Kalientis (PG) and Jonas Maciulis (SF) scored a combined 63 points.
JONAS VALANCIUNAS – GAME RECAP
Jonas was brought off the bench for the fourth straight game, which really wasn’t a surprise given how good Lithuania has looked in the last couple matches. He entered the game at the ~8 minute mark of the second quarter and got off to a terrible start. He was called for a loose ball foul going for an offensive rebound, then he fell asleep under the rim, and committed a goaltend on an and-one. He was summoned to the sideline and received an earful from his coach.
However, his coach decided to stick with him, and it paid off. The first play after the lecture was a post-up for Jonas and he drew a foul on the defense. On the next play, he caught a pass in the pick and roll and scored. He also picked up a pair of offensive rebounds in the quarter and threw in a put-back. Finally, he tipped home an errand alley-oop pass and showed great athleticism.
He registered three blocks in the half, with two coming on one possession where twice he stuffed his man at the rim. He altered a number of shots and generally dissuaded the Croatians from attacking the rim.
The second half looked much the same for Jonas. He blocked two more shots and centred a zone defense for Lithuania that brought the Croatian offense to a screeching halt. He set a number of solid screens which freed up his teammates for some open looks. He did pick up a pair of fouls, but they were very weak, at best. He was called for a clear-out on an offensive rebound and for a moving screen.
He finished the game with 6 points on 3/5 shooting, five rebounds (2/3), 2 turnovers, 3 fouls drawn and 5 (!!) blocks. He played 20 minutes and was a -7.
JONAS VALANCIUNAS – OFFENSE
Jonas looked decent on offense. He grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds, although he was a little overzealous at times. He scored off two pick-and-roll plays, and he tossed in a put-back. He got three post touches; he was fouled on one, he turned it over on another and he missed a layup at the rim.
He set good screens and created a lot of space for his teammates. A lot of the success of the wing players can be attributed to his screens.
JONAS VALANCIUNAS – DEFENSE
I know what you’re thinking; five blocks means he was everywhere, right? Well, not really. Don’t get me wrong – he had a good game defensively, but I just don’t think he was as good as those five blocks would indicate. He was slow to step out on his man on pick and pops, and he showed some mental lapses (which earned him a stern lecture from his coach).
That being said, five blocks is five blocks (including this gorgeous swat). He was an intimidating rim presence and he challenged/changed many Croatian shots. He did a good job anchoring a zone defense which may prompt Casey to trot out his vaunted zone defenses.
- The wings have really stepped up in the past few games. Today, Kleiza and Maciulis carried the charge. Who will step up on Sunday?
- I don’t know what happens in the locker room, but the team always plays well after the half. Today, they came out roaring in the third quarter and grabbed a commanding lead.
- Their next opponent will be France, who they’ve already defeated en route to the championship game.
- Seeing all these former Toronto Raptors prompted me to come up with an all-Eurobasket line-up. How’s this team sound? Caldron-Ukic-Kleiza-Valanciunas-Ajinca. Yeah…
- The Croatian head coach would like you to give peace a chance:
- Lithuania will face France for the championship on Sunday at 3 PM EST. It should be a good one. I will not be able to watch the game (there may be an all-important fantasy hockey draft taking place), but I will try write a short piece, along with a Eurobasket recap on Monday.