Quarter-Finals Preview: Lithuania and Serbia Set for an All-European Showdown
The European basketball stage is set for a thrilling quarter-final clash in Manila, as Lithuania and Serbia, two continental powerhouses, prepare for a highly anticipated matchup. The game will tip off at 10:45 CET, equivalent to 16:45 local time at the Mall of Asia Arena in the heart of the Philippines.
Key Matchup: This quarter-final promises a battle between two of the finest talents in the basketball world. Nikola Milutinov, who has earned a reputation as one of Europe’s premier centers over the last five years, has been a force in Manila, averaging an impressive 14.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks in just 25.0 minutes per game. His formidable counterpart is Jonas Valanciunas, the powerhouse in Lithuania’s lineup, who boasts stats of 13.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks despite playing even fewer minutes at 20.6 per game. The paint will witness intense and physically demanding battles between these two giants.
X-Factors: Often underestimated, Bogdan Bogdanovic has consistently demonstrated his scoring prowess when wearing the Serbian jersey. While Milutinov will face a formidable defensive challenge, Bogdanovic is expected to lead the offensive charge. Don’t be surprised if he delivers a points-assists double-double by the end of the game. On the Lithuanian side, Rokas Jokubaitis has been a key figure in fueling their offense throughout the tournament. As the stakes rise, so does his role. Although his numbers may not always grab the spotlight, his orchestrating skills were pivotal in Lithuania’s victory over the United States.
Stats Tell the Story: Expect coach Svetislav Pesic’s Serbian team to push the tempo. They have been averaging nine steals per game, generating 25.2 points from turnovers, and scoring 22.8 fast-break points per game. Lithuania, on the other hand, has recorded four steals, 12.6 points from turnovers, and 10.6 fast-break points per game.
Lithuania’s three-point shooting will be a crucial factor to watch. They made an astonishing nine consecutive three-pointers in their game against the United States and are shooting at an impressive 46.4 percent from beyond the arc, the highest in the tournament by a significant margin (South Sudan follows at 40.7 percent). Serbia is also among the top ten in three-point shooting at 37.6 percent.
Past Matchups: Lithuania and Serbia have met only once in FIBA Basketball World Cup history, a memorable clash in 2010 when Linas Kleiza’s remarkable 33-point performance led Lithuania to a 99-88 victory in the Third Place Game in Istanbul. Their rivalry in FIBA EuroBasket competitions from 2009 to 2015 resulted in a balanced 2-2 record between them. However, if you include games against FR Yugoslavia/Serbia and Montenegro, Lithuania has three more losses against them in FIBA EuroBasket during the 1990s, along with one win over Serbia and Montenegro in 2003. They also have a win in the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000.
They Said: “After our win over the USA, we told the players in the locker room to celebrate briefly and save their energy and emotions for the upcoming game against Serbia. It’s a tough challenge for all of us. It’s one of the greatest wins of our careers, but there’s no time to celebrate because Serbia is waiting. They are rolling out the red carpet for us.” – Kazys Maksvytis, Lithuania head coach
“Against the Dominican Republic, we could rely on solid defense and average offense to secure the win. However, against Lithuania, we need both exceptional defense and offense. We have to be at our absolute best. It’s going to be a demanding game, and we must maintain peak concentration as if we are playing four ten-minute games.” – Svetislav Pesic, Serbia head coach