Day 2 Men: LTU 98 - PUR 90
Lithuania too strong for Puerto Ricans
ATHENS (Olympics) - European champions Lithuania brought a tired Puerto Rico back down to earth at the Olympics on Tuesday.
The Baltic nation, sluggish against Angola in their opening win, showed on this occasion they will contend for a medal and possible gold in a 98-90 victory against a side who stunned the USA on Sunday.
Puerto Rico got 25 points apiece from Carlos Arroyo and Larry Ayuso but Antanas Sireika's men broke open a close game in the third quarter and stayed in front the rest of the way.
Sarunas Jasikevicius, the Lithuanian point guard who had 18 points, seven assists but also seven turnovers, admitted: "It was a very difficult game since Puerto Rico is not just any team."
Nor are Lithuania.
They have size, speed and excellent guard play.
And there may be no team that can match the Lithuanians on the perimeter.
In this game, Lithuania were an unworldly 16 of 30 from three-point range.
They are so prolific from long range, in fact, that the Baltic side took more shots from outside the arc than in. They were 14 of 26 closer to the basket. And bizarrely, this great shooting team made just 63% of their free throws.
Arvydas Macijauskas, one of the purist shooters in the sport, missed both of his from the line.
Last year at Tau Ceramica in the ACB he made 83 consecutive free throws before missing - a Spanish record.
Puerto Rico's exertions against the United States may have left them with tired legs, and it could have been one reason why Lithuania's shooters, particularly Macijauskas and Jasikevicius, were able to get open to launch their threes.
Macijauskas (19 points) was five of eight on his three-point attempts and Jasikevicius was four of seven.
"We were very tired because of the efforts put in during the USA game," Puerto Rico centre Jose Ortiz admitted. "Of course this does not mean that our defeat is excusable."
Arroyo was in a fighting mood after the loss.
"It doesn't mean anything," the Utah Jazz star said.
"Our group is really competitive and I think there will be lots of surprises during the first round."
He then spoke of his side's breakdowns on defence.
"We didn't have the right communication in defence and we left Lithuanian shooters many times with open space," the 6ft 1in star said.
"We're a good offensive team, but if we want to continue what we started by winning against the US national team, we have to improve our defence."
Lithuania's Ramunas Siskauskas top-scored for his side with 23 points, doing most of his damage at the free throw line where he was 12 of 16.
|Press conference quotes:|
Raimunas SISKAUSKAS (LTU)
On the match:
"Today we had another tough game. Puerto Rico was very strong and fought throughout the game. We had good and bad moments, but I'm happy we came up with the win in the end."
Antanas SIREIKA (LTU) - Head Coach
On playing Lithuania:
"Puerto Rico's win against the United States was a big shake for all the tournament's participants. We prepared well for this game, analysing their strong and weak points. My players were not frightened at all, and competed well. I was not that satisfied by the quality of the game, as there were too many turnovers."
Carlos ARROYO (PUR)
On the game:
"Tonight's game was very tough. I had the impression that from now on we have to prove ourselves in every game and play perfectly, since we compete in a very tough tournament. We did not rotate well and did not have good communication in defence, and Lithuania got too many open shots. They took advantage and made us struggle at times. Now we must start thinking about the next game, learning from this one."
On the win over the USA and its effects:
"I don't think energy ran out from us in the second half because of the US game, it's just that Lithuania have great shooters and outran us as well. The US win was huge, both for us and the people of Puerto Rico. We celebrated it as much as we could since Coach sent us to bed early to prepare for tonight's game, but now it's past and we have to look into the future and the game against Angola."
Julio TORO (PUR) - Head Coach
On the game:
"Maybe the 98 points we conceded were too many, but the most important thing is that Lithuania scored 32 points in transition, compared to 4 for us and this is supposed to be our strong point. We did not run as much as we should have. The good thing is that we cut the margin to eight and this can prove important for us. Lithuania has beaten us several times in World and Olympic competition, and this was a first-class chance to break that streak of theirs. I saw some of what I call "gorilla Basketball", meaning the game was too physical, tonight, and Lithuania proved stronger than us in this respect."
On the upcoming game against Angola:
"Games against Angola are never easy. I remember in the World Championships of 1990 (he was assistant coach), when Federico LOPEZ scored a big basket to give us the win. Angola did not play well today, but they still have a chance to qualify if they beat us. The game will not be easy at all, but we will win if we work hard and do what we must do."
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens