Zalgiris Arena in Kaunas has finally opened its door to the public. The 15,000 basketball fans witnessed a between Spain and Lithuania in a venue which will host EuroBasket 2011 medal round.
The two teams faced each other on August 13 in Madrid with Spain taking the win 90-78. Reigning European champions dominated the second half only letting Lithuania to narrow the gap at the end of the game.
With Lithuania having a rather poor 1-3 record in friendly games this summer so far, the fans expected to see a different performance in a packed Zalgiris Arena. The fact that the game coincided with the opening of the arena added more importance to the game.
Spain didn’t look too comfortable at the start of the game as the shots weren’t falling in and Lithuania’s defence made it difficult to pass the ball around.
The hosts, inspired by a massive crowd support, made several quick runs and controlled the first quarter winning it 25-19. After four games of rather bad three-point shooting Lithuanians managed to hit several shots from beyond the arc.
Even though Spain dominated the paint and clearly outrebounded their opponents, they struggled to score making little out of second chance shots. Lithuanians continued to run and left court for the half time with a large lead 50-33.
Gasol brothers were hard to stop for Lithuanian front line. Especially since the hosts lost Robertas Javtokas due an injury caused by Marc Gasol’s foul. Spain tried to turn the game around in the second half narrowing the gap to just five points.
However, the intrigue seemed to be returning to the game, Kestutis Kemzura’s side managed to get back in the game to finish strong to take the win 88-76.
It was the second time that Spain played warm up game in Lithuania and it was also the second loss for them. Two years ago Spain were crushed in Kaunas 94-72. Though EuroBasket 2009 ended with them winning their first European gold, while Lithuania suffered a fiasco not even reaching quarter-finals.
The two teams will face each other in EuroBasket 2011 in Group A.