The silver era of Lithuanian basketball continues | True Lithuania
True Lithuania

The silver era of Lithuanian basketball continues

2015 09 21. Lithuanians have greeted their national basketball team as it flew back from Eurobasket 2015 final match in France where it has won silver medals for second European Championship in a row.

7th Olympic qualification in a row

Lithuanian Eurobasket 2015 result guarantees direct qualification to Olympic Basketball Tournament in Rio De Janeiro 2016. Olympic tournament is widely regarded to be the top national team event in basketball, surpassing even the World Cup in importance.

Welcome back ceremony for Eurobasket 2015 at Vilnius City Hall square. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuania retains its perfect record of participating in every Olympic basketball tournament since Barcelona 1992. This is a remarkable achievement given that only 12 teams participate in every Olympic games. Lithuania is the only European team to participate in all 7 games from 1992 to 2016.

Highest ever FIBA ranking for Lithuania

Furthermore, the Lithuanian team is expected to rise in FIBA ranking from 4th place to 3rd, its highest placement ever.

Only the US (1st) and Spanish (2nd) teams will have higher rankings. So far, the US and Spanish teams are also the toughest opponents for Lithuania, with a historic win-loss record of ~20%-80%. On the other hand, Lithuania has a positive historic win-loss record against nearly every other national team.

Lithuanian games at Eurobasket 2015

In Eurobasket 2015 Lithuanians have successfully defeated Ukraine [69:68], Latvia [68:49], Estonia [64:62], Czech Republic [85:81] (all in group stage), Georgia (85:81, round of 16), Italy (95:85, quarterfinals) and Serbia (67:64, semifinals). They have lost to Belgium (74:76, group stage) and Spain (63:80, finals).

Seven out of nine Lithuania's games were decided in final seconds, making this Eurobasket especially nervous to watch for many Lithuanians. Together with the location of the group stage in nearby Riga (where thousands of Lithuanians attended games, populating the center of Riga with green-dressed people) it also increased the popularity and TV ratings of the event.

The total attendance of five Lithuanian team games in Riga was 34562, only slightly lower than the attendance of Latvian team which played at home (39490) and higher than that of Estonian team which also had many visiting fans (29134).

The final game of Eurobasket 2015 (Lithuania-Spain) was attended by more than 27000 spectators, making it the most-attended basketball game in European history.

Claims that Lithuania has too few powerful players proved wrong

Without some of its key players such as Donatas Motiejūnas, Linas Kleiza, Darjuš Lavrinovič and Kšištof Lavrinovič, and joined by 4 newcomers, Lithuanian national team was somewhat written off by experts at first. The preparation series of friendly matches started unexpectedly well however as Lithuania beaten. As the series progressed, the games became tougher and victories became hard. This trend continued throughout the group stage of Eurobasket 2015, but Lithuania still came 1st at the group and once again picked up its momentum when the playoff games came, managing to win games against Italy and Serbia where Lithuanian odds were considered to have been just 20%-40% by punters.

Initially defensive, the Lithuanian performance grew increasingly offensive as the tournament progressed and increasingly reliant on the key players.

Individually, Lithuanian point guard Mantas Kalnietis had the most assists per game in the entire Eurobasket 2015 (7,8) while Jonas Mačiulis equally prevailed in most steals per game (1,9).

Two Lithuanian players were elected to the "best 5" of the tournament (Jonas Valančiūnas and Jonas Mačiulis) together with 2 Spanish and 1 French player.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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