J.J. Barea will now have to think of next year....
There have definitely been wackier games today, but this game was easily the most competitive from start to finish. Both teams were heavily experienced in international basketball, and played together well. Neither team's deficit went beyond single digits, and both teams were virtually even in almost all statistical categories.
In the first half, both teams played a very close and balanced game. Lithuania focused on drawing up intensive plays, getting open shots for their players from both mid-range and beyond the arc, and they allowed their big men to roll to the basket. They also did a good job of getting to the line, and shot well from it. Puerto Rico took more shots and won the rebounding battle, but their style of offense was very different. Jose Juan Barea concentrated on getting to the basket, but the Puerto Ricans didn't draw a whole lot of fouls. They let Daniel Santiago get some points when he was single covered down low, and Alex Galindo added a couple open threes. Scoring was very spread out for both teams, as neither had a player in double digits after the first half.
In the second half, Puerto Rico was a little bit more disorganized, but they started going to the line and getting fouled down low, sending Lithuania's big men into foul trouble and forcing Darius Songaila into the game. But if Lithuania has one advantage, it's depth, and that had little effect on their performance. Puerto Rico still managed to score by shooting well from beyond the arc, and by the end of the third all of the stats were dead even. The only real difference was that Puerto Rico still had an advantage on the boards and had more turnovers than Lithuania.
The fourth quarter saw a very stagnated game early on, with neither team being able to establish much of a flow. Puerto Rico was slowly slipping behind, but the game picked up once Jonas Valanciunas and Peter John Ramos fouled out. Puerto Rico started going inside, while Lithuania relied on their outside jump shots. Arroyo really killed it for Puerto Rico late though, hitting two consecutive threes on a hurt leg, and giving Puerto Rico a one point lead. From that point on, the game was totally even, with neither team establishing a real advantage.
Both teams were tied going into the final minute, with Puerto Rico going to Daniel Santiago in the paint. He was fouled, and split the free throws. After a time out, Jasikevicus went straight to the hole for a quick Lithuania score, putting them out front. After another time out, Jose Juan Barea forced a pass to Santiago, and it was intercepted by Lithuania, who had Kleiza fouled. He split the free throws, and Puerto Rico went to the post once again. A travel was called, and Lithuania went back to the line, where Jasikevicus made both free throws, effectively sealing the game.
In the end, this was a fantastic game between two evenly matched teams. Lithuania won the turnover battle while Puerto Rico grabbed more rebounds. But the game came down to nothing other than coaching. Why Puerto Rico would go to Daniel Santiago twice in the final minute when he only had four points previously is just totally beyond me, especially when Lithuania was so good at collapsing on Puerto Rico in the lane. Meanwhile, Lithuania went to the classic game changer, Sarunas Jasikevicus, and he managed to essentially seal the game on a hostile floor.
Alez Galindo led all scorers with 17, and was lights out from beyond the arc. Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea both finished with 13 points for Puerto Rico, while Nathan Peavy had 12 rebounds to go with 6 points. Lithuania also had a great rebounder in Maciulis, but they got scoring help from Linas Kleiza and Mantas Kalnietis, both of whom finished with 14.
Lithuania advances to take on the Dominican Republic in the second round for a shot at a sixth straight Olympic appearance. Puerto Rico is now out of Olympic contention, and will see their next action at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship.