Lithuania Stuns Spain With Dramatic Fourth-Quarter Comeback
Lithuania outscored Spain 23-9 in the final quarter. Spain committed a handful of costly turnovers, including one on their last possession when they were down three and had an opportunity to send the game into overtime.
The turning point of the game came with fewer than five minutes remaining in the third quarter when the Lithuanian team took their second timeout in a matter of minutes. Spain was in the midst of a 7-0 run and had extended their lead to 18 points.
Lithuanian coach Kestutis Kemzura somehow lit a fire under his team during the timeout, prompting his players to close the third quarter on a 10-3 run. When the fourth quarter began, the Lithuanians kept chipping away at Spain's lead.
Back-to-back steals and dunks by Lithuanian forward Jonas Maciulus cut the lead to 64-61 with fewer than seven minutes left in the game.
Finally, the Lithuanians took advantage of another turnover by Spain and tied the game at 71-71 on a Mantas Kalnietis three-point shot with 1:51 left in the game. From there, Spain crumbled and could not convert one field goal thereafter -- Spain had only two field goals in the entire fourth quarter.
Although the Lithuanians are considered an undersized team, they managed to grab nine more rebounds than Spain, tallying 40 to Spain's 31. Lithuania also pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, giving them numerous second-chance opportunities for points when their shots were not falling.
Toronto Raptors forward Linas Kleiza led the Lithuanian bunch with 17 points and also added eight rebounds. Valencia center Robertas Javtokas, who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2001, pulled down eight boards as well for Lithuania. Former Duke Blue Devil Martynas Pocius added eight points in the fourth quarter to spark the Lithuanian's comeback.
Center Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies was dominant at times with 18 points and eight rebounds for Spain, but point guard Ricky Rubio disappointed in his 28 minutes of play, shooting only 1 of 7 from the field with just two assists. Rubio and Spain failed to get the ball down low to Gasol at critical moments. Juan Carlos Navarro added 18 points, while Portland Trail Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez chimed in with 13 points and nine rebounds. Even with all the former and current NBA firepower, the whole Spanish team was in disarray during the game's final minutes.
Luckily for Spain, they have yet to play the two doormats of Group D -- Lebanon and Canada. The defending world champions will most likely advance into the knockout stage, but they will do so with many question marks hovering over the team. They have played frantically and have yet to find any chemistry in vital late fourth-quarter moments against quality opponents.
Spain can now finish no higher than third place in Group D, which means the defending champs will likely draw Group C's second-place team -- expected to be Greece, a bronze finisher in Europe last summer and considered one of Spain's chief rivals in the tournament -- in the round of 16, and almost assuredly the United States in the quarterfinals. That would mean only one of Spain, Greece and Team USA would survive into the semifinals.