Lithuania beats Serbia for Olympic bid

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — In international basketball, there’s a thin line between dominance and heartbreak.

In the FIBA Americas tournament, Canada was, by far, the best team through eight games. But in the semifinals, with an Olympic bid on the line, the Canadians blew a seven-point lead with less than three minutes to go and saw a huge opportunity slip away.

At Eurobasket, the two best teams through Wednesday were France and Serbia. But on Thursday, France lost in brutal fashion to Spain. And on Friday, it was Serbia’s turn to come up short.

Lithuania is heading to the Olympics after holding on for a 67-64 victory over the team that had won its first seven games by an average of 15.1 points. It wasn’t a pretty game (the teams combined to shoot 8-for-42 from 3-point range), but appropriately, it went down to the wire.

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Lithuania beat up Serbia inside early and built a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Serbia climbed to within one at the half, but scored just nine points in the third quarter and trailed by nine early in the fourth.

Serbia came back again, but fell victim to two tough plays late. With 3:36 left, Stefan Markovic saved the ball under the Lithuania basket … right to Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who put Lithuania up four. Two possessions later, Bogdan Bogdanovic was called for a foul on what looked like a clean block, and Jonas Maciulis put Lithuania up six at the free throw line.

Milos Teodosic put Serbia within one with a ridiculous three with 14 seconds left, but Bogdanovic was bumped and stumbled as he tried to tie the game on a frantic drive after Lithuania missed one of two at the line.

The Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas led Lithuania with 15 points (on just six shots) in less than 27 minutes. Teodosic had 16 for Serbia, but didn’t get enough help from Bogdanovic or the Wolves’ Nemanja Bjelica.

Lithuania punched its ticket to Rio and to Sunday’s gold medal game against Spain. Serbia will play France for bronze on Sunday and will have another chance at the Olympics in one of the qualifying tournaments next July.

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Earlier on Friday, the Czech Republic blew out Latvia to finish seventh and earn a bid to one of the qualifying tournaments. Wizards draft pick Tomas Satoransky averaged 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists for the Czechs, who emerged as a decent, second-tier team in Europe.

With Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Serbia and Mexico, competition for the final three spots in the Olympics will be tough. Those tournaments will be played next July. Teams that are in the field already can bid to host them, but the three wildcard selections could also host them.

Germany could be a wildcard candidate, giving Dirk Nowitzki another chance to represent his country.

11 Comments

  1. spurslover says:

    lithuania=unbeatable, unstopable

  2. xx says:

    So proud to be Lithuanian. People do not understand what basketball means to all of us. The whole country will be on their feet this evening. This is our day

  3. HMM says:

    The system is silly. Why bother with continents? Host one big tournament for all countries and send TOP 16. Done and best basketball will be represented. Today half of European countries that didn’t make it would dominate Asia and Africa teams. Why not send the best to Olympics? Political correctness or what?? It should not matter who you are and where you from. You want to represent no country, you should be allowed to do that and compete.

    • Houston Fan says:

      Know what those 5 circles of the Olympic Icon mean? Stupid comment if you do! There is the Worlds tournament for your best teams.

  4. Showman says:

    Other 3 teams to Olympics will be : France,Serbia,Greece… canada dont have enough mental stability to beat those european powerhouses…

  5. Kestas says:

    Lithuania has made it to the 7th Games in a row (all games there were since Lithuania regained independence from the USSR). For the same period of time, Spain will play in it’s 6th Games. If my calculations are correct, Serbia (f.m.a. Yougoslavia) has already played in 3 and has a chance to make it 4. Again, if I am not mstaken, Greece has 3 (+ a chance to meke it 4), France – 2 (3), Argentina – 5 (quallified), Russia – 4 (+ failed at this year’s Eurobasket), Italy – 2 (3), Germany – 2 (3), Croatia – 3 (+ failed at Eurobasket), etc. Obviously, US as well as Australia (Ociania Region champion of finalist for life) and China will take part in all seven Games since 1992. So Lithuania is the only European team to match that.
    By the way, FIBA introduced the new quallification system in order to see more non-European teams quallify (and to pocket more money from the tournament organizers – ~1.7 ml. Euros fee for the upcoming tournaments organizers minimum, official number), but, as we could see last time, Euros are simply way stronger than the rest of the world.

  6. mark says:

    olympics always favors america and europe…they both have 2 spots for olympic qualifiers while the rest has 1 and the remaining have to battle it out for the remaining spots

    • to mark says:

      well if there would be more teams from other continents than Europe or Americas Olympics would be far less interesting…. just cant understand that teams like France, Canada, Serbia, Greece or Italy might miss Olympics. I understand that all continents have to have one contender to keep the Olympic spirit, but i really doubt that the best Asian or African team would ever qualify if they had to play American or European championship…

  7. European says:

    Another great game. This is the first time in a while where both semifinals of a FIBA tournament are really equal and exciting.

  8. Damian says:

    So only 3 teams from this group can qualify for Olympics:
    Greece, Italy, Serbia, Canada, France. Predictions?