In the electrifying ambiance of the Mall of Asia Arena, Luka Doncic once again dazzled a crowd of 11,003 ardent fans. His high-scoring performance was a spectacle to behold, but alas, it wasn’t enough to propel Slovenia past Lithuania in the Classification Games 5-8.
The final whistle blew with Lithuania standing tall at 100-84, ushering Jonas Valanciunas and his team into an all-Baltic showdown for the coveted fifth spot, where they’d cross swords with Latvia. Meanwhile, Slovenia would face a neighboring rival in Italy for the seventh-place contest.
A blistering 11-2 surge at the onset of the fourth quarter pushed the lead to a formidable +21. Deividas Sirvydis played a pivotal role, scoring five consecutive points, triggering jubilant celebrations amongst the spirited Lithuanian fans in the stands.
Lithuania’s three-point prowess was the X-factor yet again, as they connected on 14-of-25 attempts from deep, overshadowing Slovenia’s 15-of-40 shooting from the same distance.
In an unexpected turn of events, Lithuania and Latvia, who once harbored dreams of clashing in the Finals, found themselves squaring off for the fifth spot. Anticipated to be one of the most raucous atmospheres in Manila’s history, this game promised to be a clash for the ages.
Lithuania’s Player of the Game
Jonas Valanciunas notched his 8th double-double in a FIBA Basketball World Cup game. He inched closer to Jose Ortiz, the leader over the past three decades with an astonishing 10 double-doubles. Valanciunas’ monumental effort comprised 24 points and 12 rebounds. If he graces the court in the fifth-place battle, he could ascend to the top 5 in World Cup history rebounding, needing just five more boards to surpass Pau Gasol in fifth place.
A special nod goes to Vaidas Kariniauskas, who orchestrated 10 assists without netting a single point. The solitary other player to achieve this feat in the last 30 years was Marcelo Milanesio for Argentina in 1994.
Slovenia’s Luka Doncic, managed to amass 29 points, though his shooting efficiency waned at 7-of-21 from the field. He supplemented his scoring with 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists.
In the aftermath, Jonas Valanciunas articulated the team’s determination: “It was tough to find energy after the loss to Serbia, but I’m happy we found it, I’m happy we came really prepared and ready for this game. We’re not gonna give up. We’re playing for our country, for the fans, for people who come to support us, people who are watching us on TV screens. We’re gonna fight until the end.“
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