In spite of being underdog, in spite of not having more than half of the main team, Lithuania reached semi-finals of FIBA World Championship by thrashing Argentina 104-85. This was the 8th straight win for The Green Tank, a name which was given to the Baltic side by the Spanish media.
The spot in the semi-final was at stake in this game. Argentina had more experienced players while Lithuania possessed a longer bench. But the game looked as if all of the previously mentioned advantages were on only side.
Luis Scola, the tops scorer of the tournament so far, opened the game with a shot from inside the pain. However, that shot later proved not to be any sign that he is going to have another stellar night. Mantas Kalnietis responded with a three-pointer as both teams started exchanging shots.
With a little less than six minutes left to play in the first quarter Lithuania started a run. Two minutes later The Greens were up 17-10. Argentinians struggled to find ways to the basket through their opponents’ defence but most importantly they were unable to defend their own basket. Lithuania scored 3/3 three-pointers in the first quarter and won it 28-18.
The second quarter was just as good for Lithuanians and even worse for Argentina. Luis Scola left the court at the half time with only 7 points. Lithuania had a huge 20-points lead for such game after 20 minutes of play.
Argentina had to make some big plays in the third quarter in order to stay in the game. Though, Lithuanians continued to roll. Carlos Delfino tried to bring his team closer but it was all in vain. Baltic Giants were by up 32 points after three quarters. The winner was clear before the final period even started.
2004 Olympic champions had almost no chances to win this game being down by such a massive margin. However, they could still play for their dignity and aim to lose at the least margin possible.
Lithuanians were soon punished by the strong press defence of Argentina. The gap soon reached 20 points as Lithuania scored only twice in the first 6 minutes of the final period. One both teams reached five team fouls the score started to grow faster but it didn’t change the outcome of the game.
Argentina will be playing for the 5th-8th places tomorrow. Lithuanians will have a day off before facing USA in the first semi-final on Saturday. Despite consistently reaching semi-finals in Olympic games, Lithuania has never won a medal in World Championship and only played twice, both times finishing 7th.
Score by quarters: 28-18; 22-12; 35-23; 19-32.
Lithuania: Simas Jasaitis 19, Linas Kleiza 17, Martynas Pocius 16, Tomas Delininkaitis 16, Mantas Kalnietis 12, Jonas Maciulis 12, Paulius Jankunas 12.
Argentina: Carlos Delfino 25, Luis Scola 13, Hernan Jasen 11, Pablo Prigioni 7, Leonardo Gutierrez 7, Luis Cequeira 6, Pablo Quinteros 6, Fabricio Oberto 4, Juan Gutierrez 4, Marcos Mata 2.