During the time-outs we got to listen in on what the Greek coach was saying to his players and I can tell you as an English speaker it was rough listening too him as he tried to be inspiring in his non-native English. Kazys Maksvytis, coach of Lithuania on the other hand made all the necessary in game adjustments that every player in the huddle completely understood. This was evident on the court as the players made the necessary adjustments required to get the win.
Player grades today for team Lithuania
Rokas Jokubaitis: A
The young Lithuanian point guard continued proving in this game that he is the future of Lithuanian basketball. It’s so nice to see that future hope come at the guard spot where we’ve lacked highest level talent in the recent past. Tonight Rokas had 19 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals to round out an incredible performance in less than 20 minutes on the floor. What impressed me the most was how he maintained his composure, taking care of the ball despite the relentless pressure of the Greek defense. Their defense, at least in the first half, was stifling. He was also able to knock down several three pointers to make him a triple threat to go along with great dribble penetration to the rim and great passing ability. I hope he is relishing his new role as a team leader because I guarantee you the whole nation is loving this young player!
Ignas Bradzeikis: A+
Jonas Valančiunas: B
JV had a good performance today, especially in the second half when he wasn’t constantly being harassed and triple teamed in the paint. It seems after over a decade of watching his career arc, whenever JV gets going early he tends to have monster games. Due to the coordinated effort to take him out of the game early by the Greeks, this seemed to put a bit of a damper on his performance. You can usually bank on JV getting a double-double, but today he had 15 points and 9 rebounds so he was just shy of one. Most of his scoring came during the magnificent second half run where the Greek defense had too many holes to plug at once leaving JV uncontested in the paint where he definitely is able to dominate. I know he is saving his best performance for team USA, a team he knows quite well from playing many years in the NBA. I am so very proud of him stepping into the role as the leader of the LT National Team. His patriotism and dedication to the squad is truly inspiring! As I stated before this balanced version on the team utilizes his strengths very efficiently.
Honorable Mentions – Donatas Motiejunas: A and Eimantas Bendžius: A
Eimantas Bendžius proved to be a very clutch player today which is also fantastic to see. He is definitely a needed role player who can open up threats when the main stars are going cold. In this match he had 15 points off (3/4) on threes which all seem to come when we needed them the most. This guy can definitely shoot the three ball which has been crucial to Lithuania’s success in the tourney thus far and will continue to help provide the extra floor space for JV to work in the paint. Someone like Eimantas, who is truly a credible threat from beyond the arc is a great asset to Lithuania.
Facing the Juggernaut - team USA
Just to be clear, Lithuania has now officially reached the quarterfinals. This match against the USA is for positioning only in that quarterfinal, it is not a knockout game. That being said, I know LT after a great performance thus far wants to make a statement of defeating the gold medal contender very badly! I am born and raised in America and love my country. That being said, I’m still rooting for Lithuania! There’s something to be said for a nation that has been constantly kicked around throughout its history being able to dominate in a major sport like basketball. My ancestral homeland seems to produce a never give up mentality as they relish their role here as David versus the Goliath of team USA. They should play loose and free, this freedom might just be the x-factor that they need to defeat a juggernaut like team USA, loaded with NBA talent. It would be the biggest moral victory if they won this next one even if they didn’t win another game after that. Taking down USA is a great honor, and one we will talk about many years later, just like the great victory over USA in 2004 Athens Olympics led by Saunas Jasikevičius and his unbelievable late game heroics. Let’s get it! #MesUžLietuva