Jonas Valanciunas helped Lithuania win the silver medal at this year’s FIBA EuroBasket 2013. His country fell 80-66 to champions France in a enthralling game Sunday night.
The stars were out in full force as NBA mainstays Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw took the floor for France. Lithuania had their fair share of NBA talent, as Valanciunas was joined by former Toronto Raptors teammate Linaz Kleiza.
With a capacity crowd on hand, the first quarter was a cagey battle as both teams adjusted to the atmosphere and pace accordingly. It was France, however, who adjusted the quickest as they outscored their opponents by 19 in the second quarter to lead by 16 at the half.
Valanciunas and company had to play catch up for the rest of the way and eventually ran out of gas to lose the contest by 14. Kleiza topped the scoring for both teams with 20, while Batum answered back with 17 of his own.
Overall it was a reasonably successful tournament for Valanciunas. Averaging 6.5 points and 5.2 rebounds a game, his numbers will not have earned him any awards. However, it was the maturity that the 6-foot-11 forward showed throughout that stuck out as his biggest highlight from the tournament.
Entering his sophomore year in the NBA, Raptors coach Dwayne Casey will need the 21 year-old to use that maturity to nurture his defense. Toronto has a clear lack of defense on its roster, so Valanciunas’ involvement in the FIBA championships could be key to the Raptors’ playoff hopes.
Scoring will not be the problem for Toronto, with a stacked back court and wing position.The ability to control the league’s best players will be the issue, and a huge part of that will come from Valanciunas.