Lithuania Keep Them Guessing

21 September 2013

EUROBASKET 2013

Lithuaina head coach Jonas Kazlauskas celebrating with Linas Kleiza
Lithuaina head coach Jonas Kazlauskas celebrating with Linas Kleiza

Talk about difficult. Imagine game planning for Lithuania and trying to figure out where they will hit you. Just when you think one of their young big men will hurt you, a crafty veteran will step up. Spy in on their shooters and a quick, determined guard will streak past their defender to the rim.

Welcome to the nightmare of trying to guard against Lithuania - who have been playing the ultimate version of keep them guessing and ridden it to the EuroBasket 2013 final.

Through 10 games heading into the title contest against France, 10 Lithuanians have scored in double digits at least once. Coach Jonas Kazlauskas has seen seven different players lead his team in scoring in at least one game.

"In this tournament, we have some guys who are playing great this whole tournament but our power is that every day somebody else is scoring unexpectedly," said Maciulis, who scored a career-high 23 points in Lithuania's 77-62 semi-final win over Croatia.

"Every day it's important to have a new leader in the team."

It's all about balance for Lietuva.

"We've been playing pretty well as a team this whole tournament. We tend to find guys who step up and make plays," added Linas Kleiza, who poured in 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the semi-final - his second game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

"When we play good defence with concentration the offence always comes," says Maciulis.

Ten players average at least 11 minutes played per game.

Ten players average at least four points scored while Mantas Kalnietis tops the list with 11.4 points-per-game.

Kazlauskas is not scared to bring any of his men into the game and knows they will get the job done - especially on defence. It all starts on defence.

Lithuania rank second in points allowed at 66.8 per-game while keeping opponents to a second-worst field goal percentage of 38.4%. Opponents hit just 26.8% of their three-pointers against Lithuania - also the second-best defensive ranking in the tournament.

That commitment to strong defence has been the key to Lithuania saving their EuroBasket 2013 campaign and righting their route when they almost were eliminated at the first round group stage with a loss to Bosnia & Herzegovina.

"We are proud for this team. When we started preparations many people were talking bad about us, were saying that this team can do nothing here. It looked a little bit like that in the First Round, in the game against Bosnia, which was very tough for us," said Kazlauskas.

"But now we have found our rhythm and we are happy that we will play in the final."

Who will be Lithuania's main weapon against France on Sunday is anybody's guess - maybe even for Kazlauskas.


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