By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
Cologne – Lithuania is in a tough spot in Group B of the preliminary round of the EuroBasket and not only because of 0 – 3 after losses to Slovenia, France and Germany.
After the stunning win of Bosnia and Herzegovina over Slovenia Sunday (4/9), the Lithuanian players are not masters of their own fate anymore. If Bosnia also beats France in Monday’s opener, then they are out of the competition before even playing their last two matches.
Not exactly where the Lithuanian players, members of a team that’s traditionally a medal contender, were hoping to find themselves when the EuroBasket began. Including star center Jonas Valanciunas.
“It’s kind of tough because we rely on somebody else, not only us,” Valanciunas said. “It is what it is. We got to hope for the best.”
Bosnia vs. France will be over before Lithuania takes on Hungary. “We got to watch the game tomorrow and see what happens,” Valanciunas added. His coach, Kazys Maksvytis, trusts that the French squad’s quality will prevail. “We have to do what we can do from our side and I think that France, the stronger team in my opinion, will beat Bosnia.
Valanciunas put on a phenomenal performance Sunday (5/9) against Germany with 34 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and two blocks only to see his team falling in double overtime of an epic EuroBasket clash. He played 35 minutes after staying on the court for 32 minutes on Saturday (4/9) in the defeat to France.
While attending the post-game presser, Valanciunas gave a bit of a scare when he stood up and left abruptly, limping his way to the locker room and being visibly in some pain.
It was just fatigue catching up to him after the back-to-back games. “Im good,” he said. “It was just a muscle cramps. Nothing too serious.”
“We had all day to relax. To get healthy today,” Valanciunas also mentioned about him and his teammates getting some rest after the back-to-back matches. “We are fine and we’ll face everything we can face.”
“Today’s he’s better,” coach Maksvytis said. “Today, all the guys are ready and I hope tomorrow everyone is also ready for the game.”
“It’s too late to go back and see the other games,” Valanciunas concluded. “We got to see what’s in front of us. And we get ready for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. It’s not easy and we can control what we can control. It’s not on us to control somebody else.”
Given the circumstances after Lithuania’s three defeats, coach Maksvytis believes that the mood and atmosphere around the team is “good enough.”
“Every win helps improve team chemistry,” Maksvytis said. “Every loss gives some doubts. Still, I think we had good enough games but lacked success. Maybe it’s our lack of experience because we are a young team.”
“You feel the pressure all the time when you are coach of the Lithuanian national basketball team,” Maksvytis admitted. “Of course, first of all we have inside pressure from ourselves to do the best job we can. We aren’t responsible not only for coaches and players but for the fans.”