Jonas Maciulis produced another inspirational performance to lift Lithuania to a thrilling 85-81 EuroBasket 2015 Round of 16 victory against Georgia in Lille on Sunday.
Turning Point: The momentum appeared to shift one way then the other down the stretch, Lithuania building a seven-point lead before Georgia hit back to within a single point with 37 seconds remaining following back-to-back three-pointers. But it had to be Maciulis who came up with the game's decisive score. The Real Madrid forward drilled a triple in the face of his defender to respond and restore the Lithuania lead to four points with 11 seconds to play, before adding a pair from the line to ice the victory.
Stats Don't Lie: Lithuania scored seven points as a direct result of Georgia's five fourth-quarter turnovers. Maciulis' tireless defensive effort was infectious, and his team-mates followed suit with several unlikely captures of loose balls and offensive rebounds to create extra scoring opportunities.
Game Hero: Maciulis has been called on to step up time and again for Lithuania during this campaign. The canny offensive moves and solid defence of Zaza Pachulia rendered Jonas Valanciunas a non-factor in this one, leaving the responsibility on Maciulis' shoulders. He answered the call in emphatic fashion with 34 points off 11-of-13 shooting, as well as six rebounds and four steals. He single-handedly took charge of the game late in the third period to ensure his team went into the final stanza facing a one-point deficit and not eight.
The Bottom Line: The twists and turns of this do-or-die contest were representative of Lithuania's entire campaign to this point. On several occasions they have appeared on the brink of implosion or elimination, but each time they find a way to fight-back. However, for long periods it appeared the Green Machine did not have an answer for Georgia's dominance inside, and they were within touching distance of a historic success and first quarter-final. Their fine progress under coach Igor Kokoskov continues.
They said: "Maciulis was great all the time he was on the court. Great on both defence and offence. Today, for sure he was our best player. I hope that in the next game we will find somebody else. We need more players to help" - Jonas Kazlauskas.