Lithuania Playing For Pride

15 September 2009
By Jeff Taylor

Lithuania are in the unenviable position of having to play another game in EuroBasket Qualifying Round Group F despite having no chance of progressing to the Quarter-Finals.

Forty hard minutes are in front of them against Serbia, a side that has already qualified for the last eight but needs a win to improve its standing in Group F.

With high hopes of winning the title before the event, the Baltic players have instead been whipping boys of the EuroBasket with just a single victory over Bulgaria to show for their efforts.

The team hasn't shot well, and it has turned the ball over at an alarming rate. The team's 15.4 turnovers per contest ranks number one in the competition.

It won't help that point guard Mantas Kalnietis, who sat on the bench early in the tournament but played big minutes against Poland and Spain and performed well, has travelled back to Lithuania.

Kalnietis appeared to hurt his back in the second half against Spain and had to exit the game.

Simas Jasaitis missed Monday's clash with a knock and was doubtful for Wednesday after being held out of practice on Tuesday.

Serbia, guided by the country's coaching great Dusan Ivkovic, have the third lowest turnover rate (11.4 per game) although in their overtime defeat to Turkey on Monday they finished with 18.

"The key was that we made so many turnovers and had a very low field goal percentage," Ivkovic said.

Serbia made just 17 of 54 (31.58%) from the floor, far worse than their tournament average of 40.6% although even that ranks 13th out of the 16 teams.

Lithuania do have cause to give their all.

They have pride to play for, and thousands of fans who have remained in Poland to support them. If Lithuania are not one of the best teams in the competition this summer, their support certainly ranks number one in Lodz.

Last Time Out: Serbia lost to Turkey in overtime, 69-64, and Lithuania fell 84-70 to Spain.

Key Stat: Lithuania turned the ball over 19 times, sank just 10 of their 17 free-throws and made only six of 23 shots from three-point range in their defeat to Spain. Serbia had 18 turnovers and were seven of 25 from long range in their overtime loss to Turkey.

X-Factor: Milos Teodosic. If he's at his playmaking best and also wreaking havoc on defense against Lithuania's primary ball handler, whoever that turns out to be, Serbia should be able to control the game.

Sounding Off: "Nobody understands what's happening but when people say that, it's usually a polite way to say the coaches did not do a great job - especially when having 10 to 11 Euroleague level players on a team" - Roman Burstein, leading basketball website editor


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