The speed and shooting of Lithuania has powered it to the bronze medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, defeating Serbia 99-88 with an unstoppable performance.
While Lithuania were far from favourites at the start of the tournament, they finished with an 8-1 record including victories over Spain, France, New Zealand, Argentina and Serbia.
In the bronze medal game, Linas Kleiza rebounded in fine fashion from his 1/11 shooting performance against the USA to collect 33 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He was well supported by Mantas Kalnietis (14 points) Simas Jasaitis (14 points), Paulius Jankunas (15 points) and Martynas Pocius.
Lithuania shot 12/22 from three point range and outrebounded Serbia 30-24. For Serbia, Novica Velickovic performed strongly with limited opportunities to finish with 18 points
Things started well for Serbia, with Velickovic, Aleksandar Rasic and Marko Keselj connecting early and often to set up an 18-9 lead with 4:28 to play in the first term.
But Pocius came off the bench and immediately nailed a triple, and Jankunas scored nine points to finish the quarter and give Lithuania a 23-22 lead at quarter time.
While the second quarter started evenly, Lithuania soon enforced their will, five points from Jasaitis and eight from Kleiza breaking the game open. When Kalnietis dunked on a fast break and completed the three point play Lithuania led 48-35, following a 39-17 run over 14 minutes.
Rasic hit a buzzer beating three-pointer from the corner to reduce the half time margin to 10, with he and Velickovic responsible for keeping Serbia within striking distance.
That didn’t last long however, a Kalnietis triple opening the second half scoring as Lithuania took control again. When Kleiza connected on back-to-back three pointers midway through the quarter his team led 62-43 and the contest was effectively over.
Kalnietis started the final period with eight straight points for Lithuania, and from there the teams played out time, with Serbia closing the margin to 11.
The win is expected to move Lithuania above Serbia in the FIBA World Rankings to number five.
For complete highlights of the game, plus postgame reaction go to FIBATV.com.
Dusan Ivkovic (Head Coach, Serbia) : No question Lithuania deserved this victory. It was one of their best games in the tournament. We didn’t have the proper preparation for this game but we showed character when we came back. I want to thank my players who worked hard since June 28 and the coaches.
Ivan Paunic (Guard, Serbia) : They were motivated and played well. We worked hard and wanted to win the bronze medal. I think they were better on the court and had great shooting. It was very difficult to come back; the loss to Turkey yesterday was hard for us too.
Kestutis Kemzura (Head Coach, Lithuania) : I have no words to describe what I am feeling right now. It is impossible to measure this because a lot of players were injured and came ready for this. Today it was not tactics, it was our mental preparation that is why we were so ready, determined, focused to win. We won against a great team.
Mantas Kalnietis (Guard, Lithuania) : Words cannot describe what I am feeling right now, everyone on the team is celebrating and we are extremely happy for this bronze medal.