By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
MANILA, Philippines – In what was arguably the highest level game played so far in the Mall of Asia Arena, Lithuanian got the win over Montenegro and the advantage for a spot in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup.
Prevailing, 91-71, they completed a perfect first round and they are going to the second phase with a 3-0 record. Montenegro will also be there but with a 2-1 record and fewer chances for a quarterfinal spot.
Rokas Jokubaitis with 19 points to go with six assists and five rebounds, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas chipping in 15 points led a balanced offensive effort for the winning side.
It was a very competitive game with Montenegro leading by one (27-26) after the first period, but losing ground when the second unit went in on the court.
Lithuania got into a 15-6 run (41-33), however, with Nikola Vucevic back on the floor, Montenegro made it a three-point game (41-38).
The answer for Lithuania was Jonas Valanciunas entering the floor, as his team managed to have a 48-40 advantage at halftime. For Montenegro, former Chicago Bulls big man Marko Simonovic had an electric start with 11 points in 11 minutes of action.
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The second half started with an 8-2 run (56-42) as Lithuania established a double-digit lead with Jokubaitis scoring half of those points for a total of 13 up to that point.
Montenegro managed to stop bleeding momentarily (56-46), but one more 10-2 run gave Lithuania a solid 18-point advantage (66-48), while the third quarter ended with the score being 66-50.
There was no coming back after that, with Lithuania keeping its distance until the end.
Vucevic shared the game-high 19 points in the losing effort. Simonovic and Kendrick Perry finished the game with 13 points each.
PHOTO CREDIT: FIBA