At 5:15 p.m. (ET) Sunday the Lithuanians will start their tournament in less than ideal fashion—by facing a tough, experienced (average age: 30+) Argentinian team.
The South Americans are ranked #3 by FIBA, and are the only team in Group A (other than the U.S. at #1) ranked higher than #5 Lithuania. No doubt the Balticmen would have preferred to get their sea legs against Tunisia or Liberia, but that could also be said about the Argentinians. With NBAers Manu Ginobli, Carlos Delfino, & Luis Scola, as well as former NBA player Andres Nocioni, Argentina should be able to score. Unfortunately, they may be undersized. If Argentina’s outside shooting is off, the Lithuanians will have a great chance to pull off a mild upset.
Raptors to Watch
At the tender age of 20, Jonas Valanciunas is by far the youngest Lithuanian (average age: 27+), and is listed as the backup centre. However, from what I’ve seen in international ball, European teams tend to play 10 or more players in their rotation. I’m intrigued about how many minutes Jonas will get. I’m trying to establish whether the starting centre, Antanas Kavaliauskas, is injured, which seems to be what his home team, Vef Riga, is reporting on their website. However, the English translation is fraught with difficulty, and reading Latvian isn’t my strong suit, so we’ll have to wait and see how much PT Jonas receives.
Linas Kleiza’s Raptors service has been marred by knee injuries. He appears to be fully recovered, and played very well in tune-up matches prior to the Games. Linas takes no prisoners, and if this game turns rough (and it will), he’ll be in his element. Linas at his best can score both inside and outside, so if he’s on his game, Argentina will be in trouble.
Both of our guys will need to defend well to stay on the floor, so take particular note of Linas’s steals & Jonas’s blocks.