Lithuania Search For Form Continues Against Slovenia

11.09.2009

By Simon Wilkinson

Lithuania have their work cut out as they look to overcome an 0-2 hole in Group F of the Qualifying Round.

On Saturday, Ramunas Butautas' side go up against in-form Slovenia, who came very close to finishing with a perfect 3-0 mark in Group C, also known as the ‘Group of Death'.

An overtime defeat against world champions Spain put an end to the winning streak, but Jure Zdvoc's side still took top honours in Warsaw.

Meanwhile, a win over Bulgaria on the last day of the Preliminary Round saw Lithuania secure the final place in Lodz but, by their own admission, there is a lot of work to be done in several key areas.

The free-throw shooting woes that affected them in the first two games looked to have been resolved against the Bulgarians as Lithuania made 22 of 24 attempts from the charity stripe.

However, their 20 turnovers are a worryingly high number while the production - or lack thereof - from their backcourt players will have to be addressed and resolved as they face a Slovenian side getting a huge lift from all of their guards.

Slovenia will feel confident heading into this game and rightly so. They have been playing well at both ends of the floor while doing a good job of managing the minutes of their key players.

It will be a big bonus if they can get out to an early lead and still have the luxury of resting and limiting the minutes of Uros Slokar and Matjaz Smodis who are slowly working their way back into the line-up.

Head to head: Lithuania leads the series 4-1 and have won the last four, including an 80-61 win at the EuroBasket 2007 that ended Slovenia's 5-0 start to the tournament.

Last time out: Lithuania beat Bulgaria 84-69 to clinch their first win and Slovenia lost to Spain 90-84 in suffering their only defeat.

X-factor: Backcourt play. Lithuania head coach Ramunas Butautas has stuck with Andrius Mazutis as his starting point guard in the first three games and the move has been seen as questionable with the 1.79m failing to have any positive impact. Perhaps Tomas Delininkaitis should be given more minutes. Lithuania are lacking in depth at both guard positions in this tournament and have no one could can fill the shoes of Sarunas Jasikevicius and Rimantas Kaukenas. Meanwhile, Slovenia are spoilt for choice with Jaka Lakovic, Goran Dragic, Domen Lorbek and Samo Udrih having all had - and taken - their chances to make big plays in their opening three games. Sixth man Dragic in particular will be one to look at, coming off impressive displays against Serbia and Spain.

Stats: 44 - The number of times Lithuania turned the ball over in their opening three games. They will have to take care of the ball better and that might not prove too easy, especially when Dragic - who went for six steals against Spain - is on the court.

Sounding off: "Things are not clicking for us at the moment. We hope we can get it right in the Qualifying Round. We were playing much better heading into the tournament but we can now leave behind the past and focus on starting on the right foot in this group." Lithuania center Robert Javtokas.


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