Lithuania Rains Threes to Dominate Lebanon

    Game report

    JOVANA (Lithuania) - The road to the Olympic Games in Paris will be long, tiring, and difficult, but it couldn’t start better than this for Lithuania.

    Getting the job done in the first of three straight friendly games against Lebanon, a fresher version of the Baltic national team made hundreds of countrymen happy in Jonava.

    The story of the game

    Taking control early in the game, only to lose glimpses of it midway through the second quarter, a (super)starless Lithuanian national team won 100-71 against the second-best Asian team in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which dreams of making history soon in Valencia’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Despite the loss, nobody could say that the red-and-white side didn’t give it their all out there.

    “We will have a fun and good match,” Lithuania’s head coach Kazys Maksvytis said ahead of his team’s first preparation encounter. Indeed, they shared the ball with enthusiasm, making it rain from outside. The icing on the cake is that stars like Domantas Sabonis, Jonas Valanciunas, Marius Grigonis, Rokas Jokubaitis, Donatas Motiejunas, and other huge assets are yet to join the training party.

    The player of the game

    Azuolas Tubelis definitely likes to dunk in transition, in addition to dominating domestically. The former Arizona Wildcats prospect, who returned home at the beginning of November and was named MVP of the Lithuanian league at 22, had the impact of a leader against Lebanon.

    Despite not wearing the captain’s armband, which belonged to the experienced Eimantas Bendzius, he was the one putting the team on his back to create separation in the first half. Proving he has already earned a spot in the final national team’s roster for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico, he contributed to tonight’s Lithuanian victory with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.

    Moreover, he was the protagonist of two of the best plays witnessed in Jonava tonight. He first finished an alley-oop served by local hero Lukas Kreismontas in the second quarter; then, when the encounter was already locked with less than eight minutes on the clock, he took flight for a one-handed left-handed dunk.

    The stats of the game

    Three-point cloudburst in Jonava! Setting aside the current status of the two national teams, together for only a limited period to start preparing for summer duties, this was a game to be proud of for Kazys Maksvytis. You could see that his players enjoyed passing the ball to always find the open man.

    And the numbers prove it: Lithuania finished with 19/43 from three-point range and recorded 32 assists, while only committing 10 turnovers. After the first quarter, they shared 11 assists without losing possession a single time, while shooting 7/14 from three. Instant impact from the very first minute.

    The takeaways from the game

    Just call him Beliaushoot! Besides Azuolas Tubelis, Kazys Maksvytis couldn’t be more satisfied with what Laurynas Beliauskas brought to the table in Jonava tonight. If Lithuania pulled away thanks to three-pointers, part of the credit must be given to the shooting specialist, who ended with 5/6 from the perimeter for a total of 17 points. It all makes sense now, considering he won the All-Star Game 3 Point Shootout in Greece this season. Also, keep an eye on Ignas Sargiunas: his performance today—15 points and 9 assists—was pretty intriguing.

    Speaking of scorers, there must be something between Sergio El Darwich and Baltic national teams. After being Lebanon’s top scorer with a 19-point effort against Latvia in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, he was the reason his team stayed afloat in the second quarter tonight with 11 straight points. Too bad they don’t play against Estonia at the beginning of July...

    Apart from the exuberant 27-year-old guard, it’s clear that head coach Miodrag Perišić—Basketball Africa League champion in 2022—still lacks some explosiveness and offensive firepower. Omari Spellman was helpful as always, but against Angola and especially Spain, they definitely need the leadership of Wael Arakji. He’s currently in Dubai, trying to win the BCL Asia with Lebanese Al Riyadi.

    Please check here for all the preparation games for the teams participating in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.


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