Game Heroes: Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas share honours for their interior work on both sides of the court. The duo combined for 20 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks while anchoring an unmoveable front line.
Stats Don't Lie: Lithuania dominated the interior to the tune of 34 more points in the paint and a 48-26 rebounding advantage.
|"We missed a lot of open shots and didn't really play good defence, but a win is a win" - Donatas Motiejunas|
Lithuania prevailed in the battle of the Baltics, defeating their persistent northern neighbours 67-59 on Friday night.
Despite owning the paint and forcing Latvia into an 8-for-31 night from the three-point line, Donatas Motiejunas was not overly pleased with the close result.
"We missed a lot of open shots and didn't really play good defence, but a win is a win and that one was an important one for us," he said.
"It helps us to get better in the group stage, but I don't think that was the game our coach wanted to see."
Latvia opened the game with a barrage of long twos, but Lithuania looked the better team as the opening quarter evened out.
Jonas Valanciunas converted two powerful moves at the ring before the Lithuanians lost Renaldas Seibutis to a hard knock above the eye, forcing the small forward to leave the court bleeding heavily.
Led by the young frontcourt of Valanciunas and Motiejunas, the Lithuanians controlled the interior well into the second term while Latvia only secured their first bucket inside with two minutes remaining in the half, opting instead to try often and unsuccessfully from deep.
Latvia returned from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter as the effectiveness of the Lithuanian big man combination dried up. With the scores tied up, coach Jonas Kazlauskas returned to the reliable Darjus Lavrinovic and Lithuania regained their grip on the game by rolling out a 7-0 run to take a seven-point lead into the final quarter.
Scores remained close late in the game until the Maciulis triple, enabling Mantas Kalnietis and Seibutis to close out Lithuania's second win.
"It was a tough game, because we live right next to each other, they are like our brothers," Rihards Kuksiks said post-game.
"They came out better this time. We have just got to forget this loss and move on to the next game."
With some time to rest, Latvia are looking to regroup ahead of their final two first round games against Serbia and F.Y.R Macedonia.
"We just need to focus, get our scouting reports, and just be ready - mentally and physically," Kuksiks added.
"We have one day to rest, get all the treatment we can and be ready to go."