Posts Tagged ‘Sarunas Jasikevicius’

Desperate Lithuania Up Next For U.S.

LONDON – Unlike many of the other teams in this competition, certain members of the Lithuanian contingent here at the Olympics have tangible knowledge of what it feels like to take a bite out of the machine that is the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.

Before the U.S. program was back to its current and dominant state, basketball-mad Lithuania shocked the basketball world with a during the 2004 Olympics, a loss the U.S. made up for in the bronze medal game.

Veteran Lithuanian guard Sarunas Jasikevicius led the charge in that 2004 upset and is still on the roster, along with fellow former NBA player Darius Songaila. But times have changed a bit since then for both sides.

The U.S. is back to its gold medal ways, courtesy of the complete program makeover engineered by USA Basketball chairman and managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski. The U.S. is chasing a second straight gold medal and has won their three games here by a jaw-dropping average of 52.3 points, a figure boosted significantly by Thursday night’s record-setting 83-point drubbing of Nigeria.

Lithuania is still one of the world’s most formidable outfits, the mere mention of the three-time Olympic bronze medalists prompts an immediate demeanor shift for Krzyzewski. But they are not among the favorites in this tournament, relying as much or more on younger stars like Linas Kleiza and prized Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas to carry the team than they do some of their stars from previous teams.

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Spain, France, Lithuania Win At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The second round is under way at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania with some familiar faces in action and some familiar teams claiming wins …

Spain 77, Germany 68 (Box Score)

You probably know the words to this song by now. Spain wins with huge efforts from both Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol. The defending champions have been doing it like this for a while now and certainly since this EuroBasket competition began. Marc scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed five rebounds while Pau rang up 19 and seven against Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman. Nowitzki matched Pau’s 19 and 7 and Kaman chipped in with 15 and 12.

  • The difference? Spain has the “Stockbroker”HT‘s main man Juan Carlos Navarro — on its side. Navarro came up with 14 huge points and helped keep Spain in front from start to finish in this second-round opener for both teams.
  • That said, a three-point game (68-65) late was decided by the Gasols, who combined for Spain’s final nine points. Ricky Rubio added a clutch steal late to end the threat from a Germany team that hung tough the entire game. Spain never could blow this game open, the way they had several others during the preliminary round.
  • Rubio finished with five rebounds and four steals in 21 turnover free minutes. His ability to wreak havoc in the passing lanes on the defensive end is impressive. And he rebounds well enough for a player his size. He’s just not a serious scoring threat at this stage of his career, not against foes of the ilk he will find in competitions such as this one and most certainly against the superstar point guards he will see in his rookie season in the NBA.

France 68, Turkey 64 (Box Score)

We didn’t hear much bellyaching about Tony Parker being HT’s MVP of group play and his performance against Turkey today is a perfect example of why. Parker simply changes games in his team’s favor in this competition. And he does over and over again. He got hot hat after halftime, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the third quarter, to crank up his crew. Parker’s free throws in the final seconds, after a crucial five-second call on Turkey on an inbounds play, provided the winning margin.

  • Not all the news was good for France. They’ll have to work without Mickael Gelabale in Friday’s tilt with Lithuania, per coach Vincent Collet. Gelabale sprained an ankle and was lost for the game. That’s a huge blow for France. Gelabale has been one of their most consistent perimeter players in the competition.
  • When Turkey turned to their 2-3 zone late in the third quarter to try to slow Parker and France down, it worked to perfection. That defensive tweak allowed Turkey to get back into the game. They battled back from a 13-point deficit to within a point in the final seconds. Without a consistent 3-point shooting threat on the floor, France struggles to operate. That 4-for-17 shooting from beyond the 3-point line accentuated an ugly shooting performance (35 percent) overall.  “We relaxed a little bit and they put the zone and we couldn’t make a shots,” Collet said. “We were scared as the game continued after we missed seven or eight open shots.”
  • Nicolas Batum continued his steady offensive showing in this game, scoring 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting. With Gelabale out Friday his role should expand. They’ll need him to be much more active on the glass as things progress.

Lithuania 100, Serbia 90 (Box Score)

The host nation team worked Serbia from both sides, the old and the new, in a rousing win to cap Wednesday’s action. Sarunas Jasikevicius, 35, showed off his playmaking skills, finishing with 14 points and seven assists, while 19-year-old big man Jonas Valanciunas was dominant, making eight of his nine shots from the floor and finishing with 18 points. Valanciunas has been a revelation for us here at the hideout. Aside from his pre-Draft hype, the Raptors’ pick was pretty much a mystery around here. But he’s shown himself to be much more prospect than project and Raptors fans have to like what they’ve seen out of the young big man.

  • Lithuania’s bench production was the key to this game. Valanciunas and Jasikevicius were the keys to the attack as the Lithuania reserves outscored Serbia’s subs 47-19. Valanciunas was particularly effective battling down low with the 3-point shots falling early (Lithuania nailed seven of their 10 attempts from distance before halftime).
  • There is no question the energy provided by the home crowd makes a difference. While Serbia tried to keep pace, it was clear that Lithuania played with an extra energy boost their competitors struggled to match. “I think the game was hard,” Valanciunas said. “We played hard for all four quarters. I thank the fans because they put on a great atmosphere. It felt as though we were playing with six players. We shot very well from three-point range, especially in the first half.”
  • It’s hard to believe it took this long for it to happen, but Lithuania is the first team to reach the 100-point barrier in this competition, starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis led the way with 19 points. But with the firepower this team possesses, maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. Valanciunas was the MVP of this summer’s 19-under World Championships while Jasikevicius was the MVP of 2003.

Donuts For Rubio In EuroBasket Opener

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Twelve games in one day is a bit much to chew on when you’ve been away from live game action for nearly two months.

We’re admittedly a little rusty around the hideout.

But we can’t thank the basketball gods enough for delivering us this smorgasbord of hoops when we needed it most. Day 1 of EuroBasket 2011 was filled with action and plenty of surprises, both good and bad.

In case you were worried, Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t lost a step since his triumphant playoff run and Finals MVP showing. Pau Gasol looked good and rested. And the host nation team, Lithuania, didn’t disappoint in their opener.

There was even a Ricky Rubio sighting this morning, although I’m still trying to figure out how he pulled off the performance he did. In fact, Rubio stole the show here at the hideout, posting donuts across the board (save for a couple of steals) in 16 uninspiring minutes in his international debut as a bona fide NBA player.

More on that later in the rundown of games we saw … (some more than others) …

Serbia 80, Italy 68 (Box Score)

You know it’s going to be a good competition when you tip off group play with a game like this one. Italy chewed into an 18-point deficit in time to make Serbia work for this one in the fourth quarter. Serbia made just nine of 26 shots from beyond the 3-point line to Italy’s 2-for-17, another advantage for a team that finished as the silver medalist in this competition in 2009. Having superior depth is what made the difference for Serbia as they got 30 points off the bench in the win.

  • Italy’s 18-10 lead early on didn’t hold up, not with center Andrea Bargnani contributing just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in the first half (he came off the bench). He warmed up after halftime and finished with a game-high 22 and nine rebounds. Danilo Gallinari turned his right ankle midway through the third quarter and came out of the game a couple of minutes later. He did return in the fourth.
  • Milan Macvan came off of the bench for Serbia and dropped 10 second-quarter points as they erased that early deficit. He chipped in with four more during an 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter to help put the game away. He found all the holes in the Italy’s zone defense, making six of his seven shots from the floor. As we learned from the Dallas Mavericks during the playoffs, bench play is often the difference between winning and losing in a tournament setting.
  • Serbia’s starting guards, Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic, put on a show of their own. They combined for 30 points and 12 assists and combined to shoot a wicked 6-for-10 from beyond the 3-point line.

Spain 83, Poland 78 (Box Score)

One Gasol is enough to keep defending champion Spain in the hunt for a repeat title. Having two, however, is a luxury that no doubt every other team in the competition would love to have. Pau Gasol scored 12 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter as Spain had to hold on to squeeze past Poland in the final seconds to win their opener. Marc Gasol finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes of action.

  • Rubio was still the one guy we were most eager to look at in this game and something was clearly missing from his game. He missed a wide-open, second-half layup and was not a factor in his limited minutes on the floor. Piling up zeros across the board the way he did after all the hype that has accompanied him the past months (and years) was definitely a disappointment.
  • Seeing Serge Ibaka work as a role player behind the Gasols was interesting, especially after seeing him play such a huge role for a Thunder team that made its way to the Western Conference finals during the NBA playoffs. Ibaka was his usual workmanlike self, though, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting in his 14 minutes.
  • HT-fave and former Hang Time Grizzlies point guard Juan Carlos Navarro is always a welcome sight on the court. We jokingly nicknamed him the “Stockbroker” a few years ago (the logic being that he’d look like a Wall Street-type in street clothes). It’s a term of endearment for a player that always shows up the way he did against Poland (23 points). His free throws and a crucial 3-pointer in the final seconds were the difference in what turned out to be a much tighter game than most expected.

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