Saras & Lithuania Hold Off Dirk & Germany
GROUP C: Lithuania 84, Germany 80
- Lithuania came out firing on all cylinders again, outscoring Germany 30-17 in the 1st quarter, a near carbon copy of their 1st quarter the day before vs. the Czechs (30-18). Lithuania controlled the 1st half, but cooled off in the 2nd half after going up by 20 points early in the 3rd. Every time they looked like they would pull away in the 2nd half, Germany slowly kept reeling them in by hitting their jumpers--Germany went 11/15 on mostly jumpers from the middle of the 3rd to middle of the 4th. Lithuania also started to have difficulty finding the range on their shots, and the usually sweet-shooting team ended up shooting just 41.5% overall, 7/22 on 3pt.
- Saras was whipping the ball around early, conducting the Lith. offense like a maestro, and never stopped the whole game with his precision passing--10 assts total to go with 15 pts. Too many seeing-eye passes to pick out for praise, but maybe his finest was a nice lob pass to Darjus Lavrinovic for a lay-in & foul for a 3-point play that put Lith up 77-70 with 3:00 left. I'm gonna start calling Saras, "The Maestro", my apologies to Bob Cobb.
- It's sort of frustrating this guy has not gotten more of a chance in the NBA. He played well for about 3/4 of a season his rookie year in Indy, then sort of fell out of favor. Thought he has not been used correctly--he needs to have the ball in his hands a lot, run him in pick/rolls where he is very effective; Indy had him off-the-ball too much, set up as a spot shooter. I know he's a defensive liability, (but so are guys like JWill, Bibby, Cassell, etc.,) but he's more than talented enough to be a solid back-up PG in the NBA if he's in the right system.
- Dirk was pretty much vintage Dirk--28 pts, 9 rbs & 2 blks--but he did rush a few jumpers down the stretch. Thought Germany, in general, got a little 3pt happy later in the 4th quarter after a hot shooting 3rd, rushed some ill-advised shots. Ademola Okulaja had another solid all-around game with 12, 7 rebs (4 off), solid defense, but did have one costly error. Robert Garrett & Pascal Roller were big off the bench during the German 2nd half surge, both hitting some jumpers.
- Germany had a chance to tie with :10 secs remaining but Okulaja made an unlikely blunder. He telegraphed his drive by dribbling a beeline to the rim all the way down the court. He made it very easy on the defender to set up for a charge. Had more time to set up a better shot. Not sure I would have had Dirk taking the ball out either, unless the idea was for him to be a trailer. Would have preferred to set him up in the half-court.
-Mentioned Darjus Lavrinovic above, he had a huge game himself, particularly two big offensive rebounds late to hand Lith extra possessions. 6-11 Darjus had 18 pts on 5/5 shooting, 2/3 from 3pt, 3 off rebs, & 2 stls. Yeah, not bad. Was impressed with him last year at the Worlds--very mobile big with a nice shooting stroke who is one of the better NBA prospects among Euro vets, same with his brother.
- Lith definitely has been the class of the 1st round, the offense has looked impressive (only Spain's is on the same level). They spread you out so well with multiple shooters then combine it with crisp ball movement, and drives when needed. Although their perimeter players are not that quick, their offensive spacing creates huge lanes for them to maneuver easier. If they can just play decent defense, which they have so far, they look to be the most balanced team next to Spain.