Serbia rolled into Friday's EuroBasket semifinal as arguably the hottest team in the tournament, but Lithuania put on a defensive showcase to nab a thrilling 67-64 victory and a spot in Sunday's final against Spain.
By advancing to the EuroBasket championship, Lithuania also clinched a berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as ESPN Stats & Info outlined:
Paced by a team-high 15 points from center Jonas Valanciunas—11 of which came in the first half—Lithuania was able to impose its will on the offensive end against a Serbian team that couldn't establish much inside or outside the arc.
While Lithuania shot 45.5 percent from the field, Serbia sputtered by shooting 32.8 percent. Serbia attempted to inflict pain on Lithuania with heavy doses of threes, but the long-range looks didn't fall with regularity. The losers converted on just six of 28 shots (21.4 percent) from distance.
And had it not been for some sloppy Lithuania decision-making, Serbia may not have been able to make things as close as they were.
Serbia scored 15 points off 20 Lithuania turnovers, but a nine-point third quarter proved to be its downfall.
Although a clutch Milos Teodosic three with 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to one, Serbia couldn't convert on last-gasp opportunities.
But for a team that entered Friday with a 15.1-point average margin of victory at the tournament led by Teodosic's floor vision and sweet shooting, Friday was an unequivocal letdown.
"They [Lithuania] are playing a lot of pick-and-roll," Teodosic said prior to the game, according to FIBA.com. "They have a lot of the same things as from CSKA [Moscow]. They really play well as a team."
In the loss, Teodosic finished with a game-high 16 points on 4-of-11 shooting (2-of-5 from three) while doling out three assists. Mantas Kalnietis, his point guard counterpart, totaled 12 points and a game-high nine dimes while committing eight turnovers.
However, the story of the night was Valanciunas, who has been lethal down on the low blocks, per Synergy Sports:
Evidently, Valanciunas has carried his regular-season success with the Toronto Raptors over to the international hardwood.
During the 2014-15 NBA campaign, Valanciunas ranked in the 88th percentile as a post-up scorer, per Synergy. That was the third-best mark among all players with at least 100 post-ups.
But a tough task awaits. As international NBA scribe David Pick noted, Pau Gasol has torched Valanciunas in head-to-head tilts:
So as Serbia gets set to square off against France in the third-place game, Valanciunas will be looking to help Lithuania repeat its 2003 EuroBasket performance with a victory over an experienced and talented Spanish side in the tournament's final showdown.