The Lithuanians have had a bumpy ride at the 2012 Olympics, but with a victory over winless Tunisia on Monday, they will secure their spot in the quarterfinals.
This an encouraging development for the Baltic men, as they are finally playing up to their potential. After their early schedule was riddled with disappointment, Lithuania used Saturday to remind everyone what they are capable of. Against the best United States team in 20 years, the Lithuanians brought their A+ game, scaring the hell out of the Americans before LeBron James started doing LeBron James things. The best player in the world scored 9 points in the final four minutes, effectively burying Lithuania 99-94.
Although they were dealt another L, Lithuania looked like a legitimate gold medal contender at times. They destroyed the USA on pick-n-rolls. They won the rebounding battle. They got another masterful game from our boy Linas Kleiza (25 points, 10-20 on FGs). They shot 58.5% from the floor as a team. They even held the lead in the fourth quarter, going up 82-80 after Kleiza drilled a three from the wing.
Simply put, if the Lithuanians play anywhere that level on Monday, they will blow past Tunisia Usain Bolt-style. Tunisia doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with Lithuania, especially with Kleiza (18.0 ppg) and former Duke guard Martynas Pocius (14.5 ppg last two games) playing at their current level.
The Tunisians have been getting great pr0duction from 6’8″ Makram Ben Romhdane (15.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg), and they did challenge France before eventually losing 73-69. Unfortunately for them, the Lithuanians have regained their mojo. They are finally playing like the international powerhouse we’re used to seeing, which means we’re likely in for a classic beatdown.
Tip-off is at 6:15 a.m ET, so set your alarm clocks early if you want to see Jonas Valanciunas before he gets benched at approximately 6:20 ET.
Austin Green is the editor of Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.