So, what to look for in this game? BallinEurope sat in one some of the Great Britain practice session today and must say the team looked pretty loose, but will imperviousness to pressure be enough? After all, the specter of the missing Ben Gordon (and, as Ogo Adegboye pointed out to BiE yesterday, Pops Mensah-Bonsu) is certain to haunt everything Britain does — or doesn’t — achieve in this tournament.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what the frontcourt-heavy Team Lithuania does against a team which doesn’t truly match up with big men like a Spain or Turkey. The home side brings an incredible five bigs (Paulius Jankunas, Ksistof Lavrinovic, Marijonas Petravicius, Jonas Valanciunas, Robertas Javtokas) and just two true forwards (Darius Songaila, Simas Jasaitis) to the tournament, which should create some interesting rotations to say the least. One thing is for certain: A packed, heavily partisan house. Click below the break to follow the live blogging and enjoy the game!
Pregame. Much pomp and circumstance before the game with the president of Lithuania and the mayor of Panevezys … plus a nearly filled house with 13 minutes to go before tipoff and long ticket lines still outside. Now this’ll be some atmosphere!
Starting lineups: GB brings Adegboye, Nate Reinking, Daniel Clark, Luol Deng, Joel Freeland; Lietuva’s got Rimantas Kaukenas, Mantas Kalnietis, Martynas Pocius, Paulius Jankunas, Robertas Javtokas. (Going with three “guards,” eh? Pocius’ll probably be in the three spot, BiE’s been advised.)
Wow, a contigent of a few dozen British fans made the trip … isn’t football season on yet?
First quarter. Lithuania wins the tip; and there was much rejoicing.
9.37: Javtokas with the first foul. And there was much jeering.
8.55: Deng with a three, Reinking with a three. Early 6-0 lead for Britain. But Jankunas registers the first Lithuanian points with two FTs. A lightning-quick steal and “Air” Pocius does what he does best: flies for the jam. 6-4, Britain.
7.50: Javtokas will be destroying Clark as much as Deng takes down Pocius…6-6.
6.06: Another three — this one by Reinking again — and it’s 10-8, Britain. Is this the strategy? To bring out the Lithuanian big men? They’ve only got two out there right now; could be deadly later. Maybe.
4.51: Lithuania has yet to find an answer for Deng, who drives the lane for a 12-10 Britain lead.
4.30: Britain setting the pace for this whole tournament, shooting threes, threes and almost-threes. They’re hot now, but it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaay early. Britain up 14-10.
2.48: Jasikevicius in the game after Songalia gets angry underneath and Coach Finch gets a “T” warning from the refs. Lithuania’s already up in boards, 12-10, but is cold at 5-of-15 shooting early. Not that they’re not getting looks…
1.05: Saras could heat things up for Lietuva. His first two makes it 16-14, Britain.
0.30: And Saras again. And again, finding Jasaitis. Lithuania snags the lead just at the first quarter buzzer, 19-18. Heart attacks aplenty for the home crowd early.
Second quarter. More nervy ball to start the second Q. Eric Boateng kicks it out of bounds, for example. Good thing Saras is here to set things right with another two, and it’s Lithuania, 21-20.
8.15: Lithuania finding the rhythm, with Lavrinovic stroking an easy jumper. 24-20, Lithuania.
7.37: Lavrinovic again, for a 27-22 lead.
6.25: Britain continues to live and die by the three, with Reinking throwing down yet another. 29-25, Lithuania.
4.43: Note — Jonas Valanciunas has yet to enter the game…
3.00: Teams trading buckets now. Lithuania holding a 40-35 lead. Now 42-35 as Kalnietis drives the lane to throw it in.
2.30: Ouch. Coach Finch takes that technical he’d been threatened with before. After two FTs, it’s 44-35 to Lithuania. “Lietuva! Lietuva!!! LIETUVA!!!!”
1.51: Clark has been everywhere this quarter, cleaning up rebounds and hitting everything he gets within 10-15 feet. Lithuania, 44-37.
0.00: Successful shot at the buzzer for Lithuania? It looked late. Nope, it doesn’t count. Lithuania goes to the locker room with a 49-39 lead, having scored 30 in the second quarter.
Third quarter. Joel Freeland went down chasing a rebound, looking stunned but staying in the game. Now that would have been tragic for Britain…
8.06: Deng and Freeland with back-to-back close twos make it 51-43 to Lithuania and an offensive foul gives the ball back to the Brits yet again. And Clark’s smooth turnaround jumper makes it 51-45.
6.36: Wow, Deng goes coast-to-coast, muscles it in and draws the foul. Just a four-point lead for Lietuva and whatever Coach Finch told his guys at half worked … except Britain still has only four scorers!
5.18: Jasikevicius is running the show well enough, but the Lithuanians can’t finish a play. Now 51-49 after a Freeland hook shot.
2.44: Lithuania has four points through seven minutes… Britain on a 12-4 run and down by just two. 53-51.
1.17: Britain now has the lead at 55-54 — and the fifth player, Andrew Sullivan, has just put in his first two.
Fourth quarter. Can GB pull this off? They start shaky with a turnover…
8.45: Lithuania manages to retake the lead, but then Saras with the airball. The noise is deafening … kinda like being in the nosecone of the space shuttle. Only louder.
7.36: Deng clanks one off the rim…lucky for Lithuania. And Saras drives for two to make it 60-59. But back to 61-60 again to Britain.
6.08: Finch calls a necessary timeout there, with Lithuania on a 6-0 run for the 65-61 lead. Edge-of-your-seat stuff now, this is. Those British fans have got to be sweating for more than one reason.
3.09: Too much distribution now, as Lithuania has calmed down paradoxically against the wall of sound. They’re 8-of-13 in the quarter and have built a 73-65 lead after two Deng FTs.
2.27: Britain falling apart … Deng with the lame travel. Lithuania, 76-65.
1.15: The party is beginning. Lithuania up, 80-65. “Lietuva! Lietuva!!!!!!!! LIETUVA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
0.00: Final score: Lithuania 80, Britain 69, and wow, it’s amazing how quiet an arena can be … see you tomorrow here from Panevezys at BallinEurope!