Lithuania beat Serbia 67-64 in Friday’s EuroBasket 2015 semifinal, and as result secured automatic qualification for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Four Lithuanians – Mantas Kalnietis, Renaldas Seibutis, Jonas Valanciunas and Mindaugas Kuzminskas – combined for 53 points as they not only ended Serbia’s tournament seven-game winning streak, but they also reached the tournament final for the second time in a row.
Two years ago, Lithuania lost to France in the final in Slovenia.
And, Lithuania’s Kuzminskas was probably the game-changer as he came off to bench on a desperation mode, fighting for every possession and contribute a much-needed 13 points and nine rebounds. Valanciunas made to protect the Lithuanian painted area with a game-best four blocked shots.
Serbia trailed by as many as eleven points in the second quarter, but closed the half just one point down, 35-34.
Although Lithuania led most of the contest, Serbia had a short-lived lead in the third quarter, but the Lithuanians regrouped in time to close out the game in the winning mode.
Even though Lithuania turned the ball over 20 times, the Serbs struggled to score as their field-goal shooting (32.8 percent) suggested.
Milos Teodosic energised Serbia with a game-high 16 points, but they will need to beat hosts France (7-1) in the third-place game on Sunday.
But, despite the defeat, Serbia (7-1) have a second chance to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Games as they earned a place in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament which will be played next summer.
Meanwhile, in Sunday’s EuroBasket 2015 Final, Lithuania will compete to win their second European title since 2003 when they upset Spain in Sweden.