Game Notes: Lithuania vs FYR of Macedonia
Horror hits the hosts.
by John Hobbs / @johnswisshobbs
It was the morning after the night before, and through the streets of Kaunas, Lithuanian flags are being taken down and the city is in mourning. It’s almost like a popular celebrity suddenly died.
At about 10:55 p.m. local Lithuanian time, FYR of Macedonia’s Vlado Ilievski capitalized on a Darius Songaila mistake to drain probably the biggest three-pointer of his life. The bucket gave the Macedonians a 66-65 lead, and they weathered the storm to hold on. The Macedonian players raced out to the 100-odd fans who were surrounded by 20-30 security guards and about 10 police officers. This was their moment, and even an hour after the drama unfolded, the Macedonian fans were still in the arena. The players came out for one last celebration, to show their appreciation.
Out on the streets, there was nothing but a stunned silence, heads were down, and some were even in tears. Lithuania’s first competitive game inside the newly-built Zalgirio Arena and it will be remembered for them crashing out of their tournament at the quarter final stage.
Songaila had no comment when asked about his horror pass which ultimately cost the hosts the game. But for FYR of Macedonia: The dream continues.
Credit to the FYR of Macedonia though, they battled throughout. Lithuania had the lead for the majority of the contest, they looked to run at the Macedonians, who only had the quick point guard Bo McCalebb as any kind of runner—and it worked—as Lithuania used their quickness to try and tire their opponents out, hitting them on the break whenever they could.
FYR of Macedonia, though, hung around thanks their superior size, stealing four offensive rebounds in the opening 10 minutes.
A major stat line was that Lithuania scored 48 points in the paint to Macedonia’s 16, yet the hosts only went to the line eight times compared to the 21 attempts that FYROM had. McCalebb had seven of those, he led all scorers with 23 points, and Lithuania simply could not stop him. He was FYR of Macedonia’s biggest weapon—at the point guard spot—a position that was their opponent’s ultimate weakness.
Lithuania was also 2-15 from the three-point line, and were slow to get to Macedonia’s long-range threats. Especially Vojdan Stojanovski, who hit all five of his attempts.
It was Ilievski though who hit the big shot though. Simas Jasaitis, normally one of Lithuania main shooters missed a baseline jumper, and it was Pero Antic who came up with probably the most important rebound of his career to secure the win.
EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania is celebrating the wonderful game of basketball. Today, Kaunas, and indeed the nation is suffering from a basketball hangover that will have more of an effect than any night in a bar or nightclub.