Scoring Machine Kleiza Shoots Down Latvia


Linas Kleiza erupted for 26 points, including a crucial put-back at the end of regulation to force overtime, as Lithuania edged Latvia 77-75 in Kaunas.

In a battle of teams headed to the EuroBasket, Lithuania overcame a 15-point, 13-rebound performance from Latvia's giant center Kaspars Kambala.

Good news for Latvia was the appearance of Armands Skele, who had been sidelined with injury.

As for Lithuania, the recent 13-man squad announced by coach Ramunas Butautas is proof that that the national team is entering a new cycle.

Ramunas Siskauskas retired from the national team after last year's appearance at the Olympics while both Rimantas Kaukenas and Sarunas Jasikevicius are missing from the latest group.

Kleiza, who also had nine rebounds in the win over Latvia, will have to be a driving force for the team this summer if they are to reach the podium.

Robertas Javtokas, the experienced center, will serve as captain of Lithuania.

In the latest cuts, Mindaugas Katelynas, Renaldas Seibutis and Giedrius Gustas were deemed surplus to requirements.

Mantas Kalnietis made an unexpected appearance at the 2006 FIBA World Championship and had some explosive games offensively. He is in the 13-man group.

"To decide which players we have to say "no" to is always one of the most difficult jobs of the coaches," Butautas said.

"But the rules say it has to be done. This year, those words had to be said to Giedrius, Mindaugas and Renaldas.

All three players are on standby.

Lithuania have six games coming up in Spain and Greece, after which he will finalize his squad to just 12 players.



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