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5 Mantas Kalnietis (LTU)
17/09/2018
Game Report
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Kalnietis dagger ends double-overtime drama against Netherlands, sends Lithuania to World Cup

VILNIUS (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Mantas Kalnietis put Lithuania on his back and carried them to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China with a massive three-pointer in the final seconds to give the Baltic side a 95-93 victory in a double-overtime drama against the Netherlands in Vilnius.

The 32-year-old team captain led the hosts with a 21-point effort, as Lithuania improved to a perfect 8-0 mark in the European Qualifiers to become the first team in Group J to secure a spot in the Final Round. Eimantas Bendzius and Lukas Lekavicius chipped in with 14 points apiece for the Dainius Adomaitis-coached side.

Charlon Kloof was the top scorer for the Dutch with a team-high 19 points in a losing effort that saw the heart-broken visitors slide to 3-5 in the standings.

Turning point: Charlon Kloof extending the game into overtime with a strip and a dunk, Edgaras Zelionis putting Lithuania in a winning position in the first extra period and Yannick Franke tying it up again for the Dutch again. There were some many twists and turns in this game, but it was Mantas Kalnietis who had the final say with 4.5 seconds on the clock.

Game hero: Not all heroes wear capes; some of them wear Lithuanian national team jerseys. Kalnietis is one of them. A different player when he suits up for the Green Machine, the point guard answered every single time his team called, lead Lithuania to the win with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 0 turnovers.  

Stats don't lie: Netherlands dominated their Lithuanian opponents under the basket, holding a 52-22 lead inside the paint when all was said and done. Much of that was self-inflicted harm for the home side, as the team's only centers Arturas Gudaitis and Evaldas Kairys fouled out.

Bottom line: Lithuania became the fourth European nation to guarantee a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, joining Czech Republic, Germany and Greece, who all qualified in dramatic fashion on Sunday night.

They said: "It's a two-fold feeling. We are happy to have a ticket to China,  but it wasn't the best game quality-wise. A lot of psychological mistakes were made, where our lack of concentration was at fault despite highlighting that before the game. They are a team that like to play fast and can live off our turnovers. And they did. We won in Croatia not being the favorites, having played well as a team on defense. We came into the game with the wrong mindset. You can no longer do that in Europe –  if you relax for the slightest moment,  your opponent will strike. Especially without our key players in Jonas (Valanciunas) and Domantas (Sabonis), we cannot afford not to play at our best. " – Lithuania point guard Mantas Kalnietis

"It was a game of bad decisions, but with a happy ending. It's difficult for me to remember another game like this, where we made so many bad decisions. The worst thing is that we allowed them to get in their rhythm and use their strengths and couldn't get back to what we wanted to do. They also made some difficult shots. I think I'm at fault for overplaying some guys and not getting others involved in the rotation. At the time, I thought it would be enough to hold on. I didn't want to risk it then, but looking back, it was a mistake." - Lithuania head coach Dainius Adomaitis

"It was a tough game. Tough game to lose. You don't get too many chances to beat a team like Lithuania and to push it two times to overtime is a tough way to lose." - Netherlands center Thomas Van Der Mars

"First of all, congratulations to Lithuania for the win and it's like Thomas said, very tough. But if somebody would have asked us right after we lost to Hungary, is it a game losing by two points to Lithuania we probably would have said 'ok we'll take it'. But coming so close today after a disappointing loss four days earlier, a great effort from my team. We have been talking about it for 3-4 days between the games and in my opinion it was a superb effort." - Netherlands head coach Toon Van Helfteren

FIBA