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JonasBasket 2013: Observations from Lithuania-Italy

Hey look, it’s the latest instalment in JonasBasket 2013! Will our hero finally receive the minutes he deserves? Click to find out!

(Spoiler alert: you might be disappointed).


Both teams rode winning streaks into today’s quarterfinals match-up. Lithuania had won its last 6 in a row, while the Italians were coming off an upset victory versus the Spanish.

The Italians have been without Danilo Galinari (injury) and Andrea Bargnani (primo-induced fatigue injury) all tournament long. In their stead, the NBA trio of Travis Diener (formerly of Portland), Luigi Datome (Detroit) and the venerable Marco Belinelli (Spurs) have filled in admirably.


The Lithuanians got off to a scorching start as they scored on their first four possessions of the game. They managed to stifle the Italian offense by switching every pick and roll and trapping the ball near the sidelines.

Eventually, Italy found their shot as they started hitting open jumpers generated from kick-outs on dribble-drives. The wing combination of Diener and Belinelli kept the offense afloat, netting jumper after jumper in the first half. Italy’s defense also kicked into gear, limiting Lithuania to 16 points in the second after scoring 24 in the first. The score was 40-39 in favour of Lithuania at the half.

Lithuania switched to a small-ball line-up for the start of the second half. They sacrificed size for litheness on the perimeter which generated good ball movement on offense. However, the small line-up, combined with playing zone defense, resulted in a litany of offensive rebounds for Italy. The game went back and forth for the entirety of the third quarter as both teams traded knock-out punchs, but to no avail.

Italy was up one going into the final frame, and although the Italians had the momentum and the crowd behind their backs, their offense inexplicably fell apart in the fourth. For a five minute stretch, the Italians ran nothing but isolation plays, and they failed to score as Lithuania built a 10 point lead. Despite a valiant effort from Marco Belinelli in the dying moments, the Lithuanians held on to win 81-77. The highlights are here and the score development graph is below.

score development


For the third straight match, Jonas came off the bench late in the first quarter. He was defended by two sub-seven footers and held the clear physical advantage over both players. Recognizing this, his teammates looked to prioritize him in the offense. Linas Kleiza threaded a nice pass to Jonas under the basket, but he missed the up-and-under gimme. They also ran the high screen-and-roll with Jonas, but he was called on a moving screen (moving too early). He did manage to finish with a nice dunk in the lane after receiving yet another decent pass from Kleiza.

He was taken out at the ~8 minute mark of the second and returned at the 3 minute mark. Despite failing to register a blocked shot, he did a good job of contesting shots at the rim. The Italian bigs mostly limited themselves to playing in the high post or the perimeter area, which allowed Jonas to rotate off his man to challenge shots.

Lithuania decided to go small in the second half, and there were times when Jonas was the only big on the floor. Despite having the size advantage, Jonas did a poor job of creating space and getting open for post-touches, and the one time he secured one, he was blocked at the rim by Datome. He looked mobile on defense, showing the ability to defend smaller players on the perimeter (Lithuania was switching pick and rolls). He was taken out of the game after being called for a reach-in foul, and never returned to the game.

He finished with 2 points on the day on 1/3 shooting from the floor. He grabbed one defensive rebound and committed a turnover. He drew no fouls and was called for two. He played 11 minutes and was a -6.


There isn’t too much to be said. If you’ve been reading these recaps, you’re already familiar with his role in the offense. He sets the high screen, darts towards the basket to establish post-position, and either his wings pass it to him, or they decide to swing it around the perimeter. Today, he received three touches on offense and scored only once on an easy dunk.

Jonas had a size advantage over his defenders all game long, but he really failed to capitalize. Part of that is on his teammates for not passing him the ball, and part of that is Jonas not doing a good job of getting open. He does demand the ball – he always has his hands up and ready for a pass, but he just doesn’t get touches. I can’t really say anything more than that.

For what it’s worth, Jonas Valanciunas has scored the most points per possession among all centres in Eurobasket thus far. It’s not surprising really; he’s shooting a ridiculous 67% from the field in the tournament.


Lithuania went to the small-ball lineup for the first time all tournament long, and for one stretch of the third quarter, Jonas was the only big on the floor. Jonas did a good job defending the pick and roll; he hedged well, and did a good job defending wing players on the perimeter. The Italians didn’t really attack the basket while the small-ball line-up was out there, so there wasn’t really an opportunity to assess Jonas’ capabilities as a Tyson Chandler type on defense.


  • Lithuania’s wings have really come alive. For a while there, it was only Kalientis who was carrying the charge. Today they received contributions from just about everyone.
  • Italy had zero seven-footers on their roster, and Lithuania had 5. Guess who won the points in the paint battle? (Lithuania, duh!)
  • Marco Belinelli looked awesome in this game. He scored a game high 22 points on 8/17 shooting and he was very effective when he was attacking the rim. He also showed that he can effectively distribute the ball and run the offense. Honestly, I think he’s going to be a big contributor to the San Antonio Spurs.
  • It must be a nightmare at customs for the Spurs. They have: 3 French players (Parker, Diaw, de Colo),  2 Australians (Baynes, Mills), 2 Canadians (Joseph, Bonner), an Argentinian (Ginobili), a Brazilian (Splitter) and an Italian (Belinelli). The potluck team dinners must be nice.
  • When the opposing team goes small, the Lithuanian head coach prefers to play Motiejunas, rather than Valanciunas. Motie is really quick and very mobile. He’s not nearly the same paint-presence that Jonas is, but apparently the coach is willing to make that trade-off
  • Lithuania’s next game will be today (September 20th) at 11:45 AM EST. They will take on the Croatians for a shot at the finals. With the win over Italy, Lithuania has clinched their spot in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
  • Oh, and France is playing Spain at 3 PM. You have to watch that. Rubio, Calderon and Gasol vs Parker, Diaw and Batum? Yes please.

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