In what has been described as “the game of the tournament so far”, Team USA edged out Lithuania 107-105 in overtime at the FIBA Under-19 Men’s World Championship today. Jeremy Lamb was the star of the game with 35 points on 13-for-23 shooting, including the winning basket with 1.9 seconds left on the clock. It looked like Lamb was going to carry his team to a runaway victory when they took a 19-point lead late in the second quarter, but Lithuania clawed back and then carved away an eight-point deficit in the final 37 seconds of the fourth quarter to send the game into OT.

Jonas Valanciunas was Lithuania’s best player once again, finishing with 30 points on 11-for-20 shooting (8-for-10 from the line), 15 rebounds and four blocks. If  you watch the highlight video above, you’ll notice there’s only one positive Valanciunas highlight. For whatever reason, his performance didn’t actually seem all that impressive to me as I watched the game. Several people on Twitter felt the same way.

Lithuania’s regular starting point guard, Vytenis Cizauskas, sat out this game with an ankle injury and his absence was noticed in their guards’ inability to feed Valanciunas the ball in good scoring position off pick-and-rolls. While his lack of strength was exposed on defense today, the fact that Valanciunas was able to score 30 points mostly from his own creation was impressive.

USA coach Paul Hewitt and American power forward Patric Young (a former Jonas doubter) were very complimentary of Valanciunas after the game. Here’s Hewitt:

“He’s the real deal. I love his competitiveness. After the game, he was so upset he was crying and punching walls. He went Rambo on us in the second half.”

As for Young, you can hear his evolved thoughts on Jonas in this clip starting at the 22-second mark:

Lithuania should be able to roll over Egypt fairly easily tomorrow, so I expect we’ll get to see more of Valanciunas in the quarterfinals when the games will be viewable on FIBATV.com. Whether or not Lithuania ends up with a medal, it’s apparent that more and more people are getting on board the Valanciunas bandwagon. He still has a lot of work to do on his body and his game, but the raw tools are obviously there for him to be a special player. It speaks highly of his potential that he can put up 30 and 15 like he did today and I’m still inclined to focus on what he needs to improve.

Comments (6)

  1. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to watch any of these games, but the best thing I’ve read about him is that snippet from the US coach about JV crying and punching walls after the game. Look, some Raps fans poked fun at Bosh for crying after Miami lost the Finals. These are in all likelihood the same fans who can’t stand Bargs because he doesn’t seem to care.

    The story goes that Bill Russell used to throw up before just about every game because of nerves. Give me a guy on my team that cares this much and I’ll worry about the skinny body later. Caring is amazing compensation for lack of muscle.

  2. Amen.

    Giving a fuck is always a valuable tangible.

  3. What I find most ironic about the reaction to the Valanciunas pick is that he is EXACTLY the type of player Raptor fans love. He’s ultra-competitive, hustles, plays defense, rebounds and leaves it out on the floor every game. Oh, but he’s European. I forgot.

  4. SebastianPruiti’s comment on Twitter was a bit funny:

    “Jonas really needs to learn how to be more physical defending the post one on one…he’s getting backed down by college guys…”

    Uh, he’s the same age as these guys. If he were American, he probably would be going into college next season.

  5. I liked the last comment in that video. His own player saying (about Jonas) ‘We need to give him more ball’.

  6. @jojo, actually it was “We need to put him more ball”, but I agree with you!

    I’ll admit it, I’m on the bandwagon. Slap 25 pounds on the kid, and *maybe* we’ve got something special happening in Raptorland for the first time in a while. The idea of a front-court made up of Ed, Amir, Val, and whomever we end up trading Bargs for (winky, winky) gets me all hot and excited, basketballwise.

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