Toronto Raptors duo Linas Kleiza and Jonas Valanciunas couldn’t prevent France from beating Lithuania 82-74 in London this morning. Al Dannity looks back on a sluggish display by the Toronto pair and an impressive performance from Tony Parker of the Spurs.
Limited minutes and limited impact
Linas Kleiza top scored for Lithuania in Thursday’s defeat to France but the Raptor couldn’t get the job done when it mattered. A 17 point haul on 5 of 11 shooting with 7 boards is fine on paper but his team needed Kleiza to step up in the third quarter. Lithuania led by 4 at the half but a 20-9 quarter for France changed the course of the game. Kleiza and the rest of the Lithuanian offense lost control through Q3 and they never looked like recovering. Jonas Valanciunas was barely used in the game, playing just 7 minutes. Valanciunas finished with 4 points on 2 of 3 shooting in his limited action on the floor.
Tony finds his touch
Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs had a tough first couple of games for France while he adjusted to playing with goggles. Unfortunately for Lithuania, Parker was back on form Thursday, putting up 27 points on 9 of 14 shooting. With Nicolas Batum contributing 21 points and Boris Diaw adding 10, it was France’s NBA core that made the Lithuanians pay in this encounter. With their two easiest games to come, France look certain to finish second in the pool. That will likely set up a quarter final with either Russia or Brazil who play later this morning. The Russians have impressed more than Brazil in early games but the greater depth of talent on the Brazilian roster will see them favored to win.
Long road ahead for Lithuania
It doesn’t get any easier now for Valanciunas and Kleiza. The Lithuanians medal hopes were heavily reliant on beating one of Argentina and France. Having lost both those games, they now must beat Tunisia to even make the quarter finals. They should have too much talent for the African champions but fourth in the pool is the best they can hope for. That would see Lithuania face the winners of the other pool, which will almost certainly be Spain. Having claimed the last two European titles and taken silver in Beijing, Spain have the winning pedigree to back up their immense talent. The challenge ahead looks truly daunting for the Raptors’ Olympians but they still control their destiny.
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