Facing an 0-2 start to their FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Qualifiers campaign, it all seemed to be going downhill for Lithuania, who were down by as many as nine points in the third quarter against Czech Republic.
However, the fans responded by giving them an added impulse, as Darius Maskoliunas’ men put together a wild 24-2 run to take down the Czechs, 97-89.
Czech Republic were up for most of the first half, taking their biggest lead of the game with a thunderous dunk by Vit Krejci, their 19-year-old rising star. However, that is exactly when Lithuania turned the game on its head and dominated the rest of the way, putting both teams at 1-1 in Group C.
Turning Point: The crowd was loud from the tip-off, and it always felt like they were just waiting for a spark to ignite them. The spark was the outside shooting and a lot more aggressive defense, as they went from 56-65 to 80-67 midway through fourth quarter. There was no coming back from that 24-2 run on February 24 for Czech Republic.
Game Hero: Eimantas Bendzius came off the bench and knocked down six three pointers on nine attempts, finishing the game with 26 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal, without a turnover. Lithuania were a +13 team with him on the floor. Laurynas Birutis deserves a honorable mention with 17 points in 15 minutes.
Stats Don’t Lie: Bench points proved to be decisive for Lithuania. With Bendzius and Birutis powering the second unit, Lithuania put together a 64-39 advantage in points from the bench.
Bottom Line: Lithuania needed something special, and a 97-point performance at home, with 35 points in the fourth quarter was just what the doctor prescribed. Czech Republic shouldn’t feel too bad about the defeat, they had another strong showing after defeating Denmark back on Gameday 1.