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Kalnietis' last gasp block gives Lithuania the final ticket to FIBA EuroBasket
VILNIUS (Lithuania) - It doesn't get any more intense than this. Denmark had the final possession to send the entire nation to despair, but Lithuania held their ground and picked up a 77-76 win to advance to the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 as the last of the 24 teams.
The upset of the century was avoided, Denmark will have to wait for the next cycle to try and end their FIBA EuroBasket drought which has started back in 1955. Lithuania continue their successful run, they have been a part of every Final Round since 1995.
Turning point: It seemed that coach Darius Maskoliunas' men figured out Danish offensive plans as they held them to six points in seven minutes of the fourth quarter and opened up a 75-66 lead with three minutes to play. But Denmark fought back, a wild Adama Darboe three-pointer spun around on the rim for an eternity before dropping in to make it a one-possession game heading into the final minute.
And it really turned out to be a one-possession game. Because Denmark had the final call, went with their talisman Darboe for the final shot, created an opportunity for him to drive to the right, before he found out why everybody loves Mantas Kalnietis in Lithuania. Kalnietis picked up the block on the layup attempt, and the rebound, time expired before Denmark could commit another foul.
Game hero: No matter when, where, how or why, you can always count on Kalnietis to come up big once he puts on the Lietuva jersey. The legendary point guard had 11 points and 6 assists, both team-highs, plus the game-winning block to send Lithuania to another major event.
Stats don't lie: Coaches always say they want to take care of the ball in games like these. Lithuania did exactly that on Monday night, turning the ball over six times, compared to the 11 turnovers of Denmark.
Bottom line: Lithuanians all over the world can now exhale again. They are back at the summit, but they will not want to repeat an experience like these Qualifiers any time soon. Denmark, meanwhile, won the hearts of the basketball world. They put up a fight even without their superstar Gabriel Lundberg, and finish the Qualifiers at 2-4.