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No margin for error in Group of Death, says Lithuania boss Adomaitis
VILNIUS (Lithuania) - There will be no room for mistakes for Lithuania right from the get-go at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 with the Green Machine drawn against talent-stacked opposition for the Group Phase in Dongguan.
The likes of Australia, Canada and Senegal will not make life easy for the top-seeded Lithuanians in Group H, which was quick to receive the Group of Death tag immediately after the draw.
Despite being ranked 6th in the FIBA World Ranking, presented by NIKE, Lithuania will have to arrive in China at the top of their game to come out of the First Round alive, coach Dainius Adomaitis warned.
"ARRIVING AT THE WORLD CUP IN PEAK FORM WILL BE CRUCIAL."
"I think the Group of Death description is fitting," he offered. "Some of the other groups may be easier, but there's no point in looking elsewhere. It won't change anything and we have to focus on what's in front of us."
With NBA-level talent in abundance, Australia and Canada are to be Lithuania's main challengers on paper, but the Adomaitis wasn't ready to dismiss Senegal either.
"In the context of our exceptionally strong Group Phase opponents, arriving to the World Cup in peak form will be crucial," the 45-year-old play-caller pointed out.
"All three teams are similar in the sense that all of them are athletic and physical, Senegal isn't an exception. They have players like Maurice Ndour, Gorgui Dieng, both of whom play at a high level."
"If I'm not mistaken, Australia have 11 players currently playing in the NBA. On paper, those names are impressive; Ben Simmons on his own would already be a handful."
Lithuania will not have the fondest of memories from their last meeting with the Andrej Lemanis-coached Boomers, who knocked out the Baltic side in the Quarter-Finals of the 2016 Olympics in ruthless fashion, though Adomaitis was not yet in charge.
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Another basketball nation on the rise, Canada will be as ready as ever to give Lithuania a run for their money. The pair have history from the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010 in Turkey, when Lithuania squeaked out a 70-68 victory in the Group Phase fixture.
"In many ways, Canada is a similar case to Australia. It's a team that can almost exclusively field NBA players. Players like Andrew Wiggins or Tristan Thompson, they're important players even at that level," Adomaitis concluded.
With no clear favorites in Group H, Lithuania will be looking at the challenges ahead of them in Dongguan with caution but, with stars Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis declaring themselves ready-if-healthy, so will their opponents.