Lithuania's second-half surge over Poland sees them through to Final
KAUNAS (Lithuania) - Lithuania produced a strong second-half display to delight their home fans in Kaunas and defeat Poland 88-69 to reach the Final.
The tournament hosts set up a showdown with Slovenia on Sunday with the chance to prolong their record of competing at every Olympics since 1992 as tomorrow's winner secures a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
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Turning point: Lithuania scored the first seven points of the game before Poland settled in. After that, it was a very evenly contested first half that saw the hosts with a single point lead at the break. Lithuania held their opponents to just six points in the third quarter, a pivotal period in the game that saw the home team establish a double-digit cushion that they continued to build on from there.
Game heroes: Jonas Valanciunas set the tone for the team early on and finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds. While the 6'11" (211cm) big man sat out of the contest after picking up his fourth foul, the damage had already been done. Domantas Sabonis checked in and moved to a team-high of 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting along alongside 8 rebounds himself as the duo made the most of their size and height advantage in the paint.
Stats don't lie: Poland once again struggled in the rebounding department as Lithuania won the battle, 38-20. Their scoring touch also deserted them at a critical time; while they started at 58 percent shooting mark in the first half, they ultimately finished hitting on 44 percent of their bucket attempts. Lithuania, meanwhile, maintained a consistent output of 60 percent across the first and second halves of the game.
Bottom line: The Final most people were probably expecting pre-tournament is now set. Lithuania put together their best performance to date so far this week as they were able to pull away to avoid any late drama, and the home crowd will be ready to get fully behind the team once again tomorrow. As for Poland, they were not quite able to put together a full 40-minute performance and come up short on their Olympic quest to Tokyo.