Not only does the first-round EuroBasket match between Turkey and Lithuania represent the first serious test for this potential championship teams, it also has more long-range ramifications than perhaps any game thus far played.
Since win-loss records against advancing teams are held into the next round of pool play, the result of this game will determine seeding into the Eighth-Finals elimination tournament, the winner of this one will surely gain a psychological edge vis-a-vis its upcoming faceoff against Spain. Confidence is at stake for the winner tonight, whereas the loser may be forced to play desperation ball against the defending champs so as to avoid bringing an 0-2 mark into Group E.
But hey, enough with the talking. Within an hour, we’ll be tipping off a marquee matchup here in Panevezys — and here at the BallinEurope live blog starting at 8pm CET (2pm EST). Click below the break to follow; it should be a dandy.
Pregame. Starting lineups are as follows. Turkey: Omer Onan, Kerem Tunceri, Ersan Ilyasova, Hedo Turkoglu, Omer Asik. Lithuania: Rimantas Kaukenas, Mantas Kalnietis, Paulius Jankunas, Simas Jasaitis, Robertas Javtokas.
To say the Lithuanian crowd is up for this game is the understatement of the century. The 5,500 in attendance here sound like 30,000 … on three or four Red Bulls apiece.
First quarter. 9.45: Turkey wins the tip … first points are Ilyasova’s.
7.57: Turkey makes it clear early that they want possession of the paint when on defense, but are happy on offense to take the jumper from the wing … Turkey, 4-2.
7.20: No problem, says Kaukenas with the three to make it 5-4.
6.16: Fearlessly Jankunas gets to the paint, draws the foul off the bucket. 8-4, Lithuania.
5.41: In general, Turkey is playing too timid on the offense and Asik is dropping defensive boards … do they need the indomitable Kanter in there…? Could he be the guy?
4.44: Kalnietis for three, as Turkey refuses to send anyone outside, it seems. Lithuania, 11-6. Turkey once again starting at a slow pace …
3.48: Jankunas vs. Ilyasova is a serious big man battle; they bumping bodies ferociously until Ilyasova draws the offensive foul. Lithuania, 11-8.
3.17: Ilyasova from way outside. Why? Who cares? 11-11.
2.35: Nice inbound to the just-in Songalia. And Ilyasova again answers from outside. 13-13.
1.33: Asik shows his strength in both meanings of the word. Two-handed power jam for a 16-15 Turkey lead. And BiE’s boy Enes Kanter is in the game.
0.50: Kanter beaten on his first board attempt and Pocius finishes the fast break for Lithuania. 17-16 Lietuva up and already five lead changes.
0.32: Enes makes one of two FTs to tie it up at 17.
0.00: Jankunas gets the roll on the last possession of the quarter for a 19-17 Lithuania lead. This one’s a real cliffhanger that thus far looks to go down to the last shot. Lithuania continues its good shooting, though not as blistering as last night — they’re 8-of-14. Ilyasova is 4-of-6 for 10 points for Turkey already…
Second quarter. 9.40: Kanter on Songaila and boy is it obvious the former NBAer wants to show up the youngster, calling for the ball constantly. Instead, Pocius is fed on the wing for the two. Lithuania, 21-17.
9.00: Kanter shows ‘im, backing down Songaila and then stepping back for the jumper. 21-19, Lithuania.
8.27: Two quick foul calls on Lithuania as Turkey attempts to speed up their halfcourt game while still packing a big advantage in size with Oguz Savas, Kaner and Asik out there.
7.32: Lithuania turnover leads to a breakaway, layup by Kanter. Six lead changes now, 23-21 to Turkey.
7.26: Steal by Ender Arslan after the Lithuania TO. Kanter misses, gets his own board, then Turkey turnover.
5.56: Wow, nice transition game by Turkey — whoever beats the other at the other’s game will win. And that was Turkey playing Lithuanian ball. Turkey, 25-21.
5.38: Make it 27-21 after the Asik two in the paint after the missed FT.
5.16: And Asik JAMS Javtokas underneath…Turkey ball again.
4.22: Turkey timeout with a 27-23 lead.
3.46: Lithuania cooling off a bit and still not able to really drive inside. If the floor’s not open, Turkey’s superior thus far.
3.05: Ilyasova again, but Pocius answers on the break. 31-25 to Turkey.
2.18: Saras now has four of Lietuva’s eight assists — facilitator!
1.37: Wow, how did Onan sneak to the hole at that one? 33-29, Turkey.
0.57: Missed fast break opportunity there with Saras’ off jumper. Kanter fights off three for the board. Onan again gets too far inside for another two. Turkey 35-29 and Lithuania calls TO with 35.1 remaining in this tense first half … very fast, very good ball here. And FIBA says Germany-France is the “game of the night”? Come on!
0.00: Jasaitis closes it off, when fed by Jasikevicius. Whoa, what a half. It’s Turkey, 35-32. Ilyasova, 32 points; Asik, eight rebounds; Lithuania spreads the scoring among seven players and Saras ends up with five assists but four TOs…
Third quarter. Let’s see what the coaches have conjured up. Turkey cannot rely on the jumpshot and Turkoglu must facilitate. Lithuania must keep the floor open…
8.32: Kanter muffs two picks and Ilyasova misses the shot at the 24-second buzzer.
7.41: ooooooh, gorgeous alley oop from Saras to Javtokas! Turkey, 37-35.
6.58: Nice D by Lithuania, not letting the guards find anyone underneath. 24 second clock expires.
6.16: After five lead changes in the first, Lithuania has not been able to close the gap since early in the second…
5.31: Ilyasova still having his way on the baseline. Another easy two gives him 14 for the game thus far, the only player on either side in double figures. Turkoglu is back in the game; BiE’ll see if he can be effective after an unimpressive first half.
4.41: Asik commits his third foul … Turkey seems content to foul should any Lithuanian enter the paint, taking the Green and Gold out of their rhythm.
4.28: A 6-1 Turkey run has Kemzura calling timeout. Lithuania has yet to open the floor at all this quarter. Zero fast-break points and zero fast-break opportunities for them.
4.17: Now it’s Pocius fouled in the lane … he converts one of two FTs and Songaila puts back the second. 45-42 to Turkey.
3.53: Preldzic answers. 47-42.
3.12: Now seven PFs for Turkey in seven minutes of this quarter…
2.46: Hedo with the ugly jumper — airball. Lithuania ball.
2.13: Jasaitis, the sudden secret weapon, with the 18-footer. Tied up at 47.
1.50: Hedo’s first two points from the floor on a lay-in gives the lead back to Turkey at 49-47.
1.15: Javtokas ties it…
0.54: Ill-advised shot from Tunceri gives the ball back to Lietuva, but they squander an opportunity with the bad pass out of bounds.
0.23: No matter, Pocius on the break after the steal for the first Lithuania lead in 17 minutes…
0.00: …and they take it into the fourth: 51-49.
Fourth quarter. Lithuania starts things with Petravicius underneath … up by four.
9.12: Ilyasova draws the over-the-back foul … Turkey must go to him. They must.
8.16: Now it’s Jasaitis with the two and one. Lithuania up.
7.06: Turkey takes the lead back, again forcing the Lithuanians to play in the half-court. 58-56 … And Saras takes it back again with a three. 59-58. Four lead changes in the fourth quarter…
5.58: Player down … Tunceri goes out of the game. Was it a ploy to stop the Lithuania rhythm? The crowd’s hoots seem to imply 5,400-plus here think so.
5.17: Good aggression by Turkoglu there, driving to the hole and getting the foul on the attempted layup. Two FTs successful and another lead change. Turkey up, 60-59.
4.39: Arslan’s speedy drive to the hoop is no good, but Asik again draws a foul. Asik is around 45% career FT shooting in FIBA tournaments and hits one of two. Turkey, 61-59.
3.45: Kalnietis’ jumper makes it the sixth lead change in the fourth quarter. Lithuania, 63-61.
3.25: Preldzic forces the drive! Tie at 63.
3.03: And Preldzic draws the foul; two FTs made and a seventh lead change. 65-63, Turkey.
2.49: Putback by Songaila. Tied.
2.16: Onan parts the Green sea straight up the middle … Kalnietis responds. Insanity. Tied at 67.
1.18: Finds the shot coolly … it’s Kaukenas for the eighth lead change of the fourth. Lithuania, 69-67.
1.03: At Preldzic misses the second of two FTs on the flagrant foul … Turkey down by 1.
0.40: Songaila drives, draws the foul. Key FTs here … makes the first … makes the second! 71-68 to the home team!
0.23: Ouch. COSTLY backcourt violation as Preldzic boots the ball! Lithuania ball, up by two.
0.15: Desperation foul by Onan on Jasikevicius … makes the first … makes the second. Turkey timeout, but damn they’ll need a miracle in the middle of this rock concert-level noise.
0.07: What? Going for the three with Arslan? The Turk misses badly and that was probably the last gasp. Jasaitis adds two more FTs … Lithuania up, 75-68, and the dancers are mirrored by the jumping crowd. Awesome stuff.
0.00: Now *that* was basketball.