Spain took a massive step towards the semis with a tough 87-82 win over Lithuania Wednesday in Madrid.
It’s the first defeat of the championships for the Lithuanians, and they were determined not to let their record go as the game soon turned into a tense, physical affair which overflowed into some pushing and shoving at times as the pressure on both sides mounted.
Six players were excluded from the game as the personal fouls mounted, with Luis Parejo, Pere Tomas and Sergio De La Fuente confined to the bench for the Spaniards and Vytenis
Lipkevicius, Donatas Motiejunas and Vaidas Cepukaitis excluded for Lithuania.
|Donatas Motiejunas was the top scorer for Lithuania with 17 points. |
Ricky Rubio again led the Spaniards with 33 points, a feat which earned him a keen slap in the face from Gediminas Orelik as he reached for the ball while Rubio was on a drive to the basket.
As the game burst into life from the tip-off Lithuania came out hard with a 10-2 run to take an initial big lead, but little by little Spain cut the deficit with Rubio scoring some vital points to end the phase 20-17 down.
In the second Spain came back by scoring well when driving to the basket, a nice lay-up from Tomas with 3:42 remaining being the pick of the shots as he converted whilst tumbling over two defenders.
At the other end Spain shut off the route to their own basket forcing Lithuania outside.
But still Lithuania managed to stay with their hosts, a big trey from Adas Juskevicius keeping it tight.
Then tensions hit their peak with 43 seconds left in the half and the scores at 43-39 to Spain.
Motiejunas reacted badly when he was caught in the face by Sergio De La Fuente’s shoulder as he collected the defensive rebound.
In the resulting pushing and shoving Zygimantas Janavicius went to ground claiming to have been pushed by De La Fuente and both sets of coaching staff piled on to the court before timeout was called by Lithuania.
The outcome was a technical against Motiejunas and a personal foul against De La Fuente, the free shots from which were both converted successfully and Spain kept their narrow 45-43 lead heading into the third.
The pattern continued in the third with Motiejunas scoring well but also getting involved in too many scraps with the opposition, Pere Tomas now being the willing sparring partner for the big Lithuanian.
Spain started to pull away slightly but Lithuania came back again, tying things up at 77 each with three minutes left in the fourth.
A big three pointer from Sarunas Vasiliauskas with 2:28 remaining gave Lithuania back the lead.
But it wouldn’t last as free throws and finally a great drive to the basket from Rubio gave Spain the gap they needed.
“We showed great character today”, said Spain coach Luis Guil after the game.
“We were down at the start and had three of our boys excluded at the end but we showed we can win these games”.
The win puts Spain level with Lithuania on four wins and one defeat, with Serbia still unbeaten in the group before this evening’s game with Germany.