Lithuania outlasted Serbia 64-67 in another EuroBasket 2015 semifinal thriller to reach the championship game, where Spain awaits in a rematch of the 2003 title game. Lithuania also clinched a ticket to next year’s Olympic Games. Earlier, Jan Vesely and the Czech Republic demolished Latvia 70-97 to claim seventh place at the tournament and a berth at one of next summer’s pre-Olympic qualifying events.
Serbia 64-67 Lithuania
Lithuania advanced to the EuroBasket championship game for the second straight time after holding off Serbia 64-67 in a thrilling semifinal in Lille, France. Lithuania clinched a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games basketball tournament and will face Spain for the EuroBasket crown on Sunday. That game will be a rematch of the 2003 EuroBasket final, which Lithuania won in Stockholm. Jonas Valanciunas, the 2012 Eurocup Rising Star, stood tall for Lithuania with 15 points, Mindaugas Kuzminskas of Unicaja Malaga posted 13 points and 9 rebounds, Zalgiris Kaunas’s Renaldas Seibutis also scored 13, Zalgiris guard Mantas Kalnietis tallied 12 points and 9 assists and Euroleague champion Jonas Maciulis of Real Madrid finished with 9 points and 3 steals. CSKA Moscow’s All-Euroleague guard Milos Teodosic led Serbia with 16 points and reigning Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica and Panathinaikos Athens center Miroslav Raduljica netted 10 each in defeat. Serbia will face France in Sunday’s third-place game.
Maciulis’s basket-plus-foul ignited a 0-10 first-quarter run that Unics Kazan sniper Arturas Milaknis capped with a triple for a 7-14 Lithuania lead. Nemanja Nedovic of Unicaja closed the Serbia deficit to 17-22 after 10 minutes, but Seibutis scored twice to open the second quarter and Kuzminskas pushed the difference to 11. Lithuania led by as many points on three occasions, the last one being 23-34 on a layup by Zalgiris forward Paulius Jankunas. However Serbia turned things around with a three-pointer by Unicaja guard Stefan Markovic. The Serbians continued to rally and Euroleague Rising Star Bogdan Bogdanovic of Fenerbahce Istanbul hit a jumper that capped a 9-0 run and closed the gap to 34-35 at halftime. Lithuania held Serbia scoreless for the first four minutes of the second half, but failed to capitalize on offense by only scoring 5 points in that span. Bogdanovic then scored 5 himself before Raduljica free throws put Serbia ahead. Lithuania’s scoreless streak nearly reached five minutes as Serbia went ahead 43-40 on a Markovic layup. However the Lithuanians then reeled off 8 straight points to end the third quarter – the last 2 coming on a two-handed Kuzmiskas slam – to lead 43-48. A pull-up jumper by Zalgiris point guard Mantas Kalnietis capped a 0-12 run that gave Lithuania a 9-point cushion. After a timeout, a three-point play by Nedovic and a triple by reigning Bjelica brought Serbia back. The game came down to the final seconds. After Seibutis split free throws with 12 seconds remaining, Bogdanovic lost the ball on a layup attempt to tie it. Serbia had one last chance to fire in a game-tying three, but Maciulis stole Teodosic’s pass to wrap up the victory.
Latvia 70-97 Czech Republic
The Czech Republic demolished Latvia 70-97 to claim seventh place at the tournament and a berth at one of next summer’s pre-Olympic qualifying events. Fenerbahce Istanbul forward Jan Vesely starred for the Czechs with 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting and running mate Tomas Satoransky of FC Barcelona Lassa tallied 16 points to six Czech scorers in double figures. Galatasaray Istanbul’s Blake Schilb dished 7 assists in the winning effort. Janis Timma of Zenit St Petersburg was atop the Latvian list of scorers with 11 points followed by Martins Meiers’s 10. Latvia started strong and led 18-12 midway through the first quarter, but the Czech finished the quarter on a 1-11 to lead 23-28 after 10 minutes and never looked back. The difference stood at 36-57 by halftime and grew to 36 late in the third quarter as the Czech Republic rose its big guns to a big win and a shot at the Olympics.