Lithuania established a 9-point lead with just over two minutes played and basically never looked back, routing Senegal 101-47 in Group H play with seven players scoring in double figures.
For Senegal, their first two possessions on both ends of the floor (a turnover, followed by a foul, followed by another turnover, followed by another foul) proved to be somewhat of a microcosm of their game at-large. Struggling to turn defense into offense and instead settling for contested jump shots, the Senegalese were unable to consistently leverage their length and athleticism into easy points, a non-start which proved disastrous on a day when they shot 1-of-23 from three.
On top of holding Senegal to 47 points in 40 minutes on 28 percent shooting, Lithuania’s defense was nasty with its cleanliness. The men in green and gold defended without recording a single foul in the first frame, and Senegal finished the game with only eight free throw attempts to Lithuania’s 31, which the morning’s clinicians converted at an extremely impressive 90 percent clip.
When it appeared as though Senegal might string together a run midway through the second quarter after scoring back-to-back fastbreak baskets with Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis on the bench, Sabonis re-entered the game and immediately put a stop to the minor bleeding with this spirited and-one:
Highlighting Lithuania’s refusal to take their foot off the gas, Sabonis converted this two-handed dunk off-the-dribble with his team up 54 points with under five minutes to play.
Sabonis and Valanciunas led Lithuania with 13 points each. Sabonis also added seven rebounds and three assists in his World Cup debut.
Up next for Lithuania is Canada, who earlier today fell to Australia in a 108-92 loss and will likely be in desperation mode come Tuesday to stay in position for a top-two seed in Group H. With the Canadians playing a smaller brand of basketball, Lithuania will need to be aggressive hunting mismatches in order to move to 2-0 in pool play.
- On top of doing Sabonis things, like wriggling out of tight spaces with footwork and body control, Sabonis also did some power forward things. The lefty big man looked comfortable attacking off-balance closeouts, and he even hedged and recovered a time or two.
- That said, Lithuania might need to be more mindful of how they’re staggering his minutes with Valanciunas moving forward. The two big men played almost the entirety of the first quarter together and then went out at the same time. With both of their stars on the bench, it was that window of aforementioned minutes when it appeared as though Senegal might finally tap into their transition mojo. The rotation pattern wasn’t an issue against Group H’s underdog, but it might be against Australia’s tag-team effort. Notably, Senegal had 25 bench points despite only scoring 48 for the game.
- It wasn’t mentioned during the broadcast, but there were a few times during game stoppages where Sabonis was seen rubbing and working out his left shoulder. Keep an eye on this.
- Sabonis and Valanciunas both played in the fourth quarter of a blowout, which was an interesting strategy unless FIBA’s tiebreaker rules have changed. In year’s prior, for example, if Australia, Canada, and Lithuania all finished with the same record after the preliminary round robin, the tie would be broken by the score margin from games involving only those three teams. If that’s still the case, there really isn’t much of a benefit to running up today’s score unless Senegal improves as the tournament progresses. Of course, dropping over 100 points in the opening game of Group H play certainly makes a statement for a team that few are mentioning as medal contenders.