Czechs stun Croatia 80-59, advance to Eurobasket quarters
LILLE, France (AP) Jonas Maciulis sank a late 3-pointer and made two free throws to give Lithuania an 85-81 victory over Georgia on Sunday in the round of 16 at the European basketball championship.
Maciulis finished with a game-high 34 points, including five in the last 12 seconds to hold off Georgia, which stayed with Lithuania until the end.
Lithuania, the silver medalist two years ago and a perennial contender, never led by more than eight. In the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Lithuania plays Italy, which routed Israel 82-52.
Earlier, Jan Vesely and Tomas Satoransky had double-doubles to lead the Czech Republic past Croatia 80-59 into the quarterfinals for the first time.
The Czechs will next play Serbia, which beat Finland 94-81 for its sixth victory in as many games.
Center Miroslav Raduljica went 11-for-12 from the field and finished with 27 points, while Nenad Bjelica chipped in with 19 and added 14 rebounds. Sasu Salin scored 26 for Finland.
Maciulis hit the 3-pointer with 12 seconds left for a four-point Lithuania lead. Jacob Pullen then made two free throws to cut the deficit to two, before Maciulis went to the foul line again and made both with three second on the clock. Paulius Javtokas added 17 points.
Zaza Pachulia led Georgia with 23 points.
Alessandro Gentile led all scorers with 27 points and Marco Belinelli added 14 as Italy dominated an overmatched Israeli team, which got 20 points from Gal Mekel.
Finland made four of five 3-point attempts to take an early lead and Serbia did not pull away until the third quarter. The Serbs made six straight 3-point attempts at the end of third and the start of fourth and then went on a 12-0 run to decide the game. Serbia finished with 30 assists, eight of them from Milos Teodosic.
''We were quite nervous and impatient at the start and we have to work on that,'' said Serbia's coach Sasa Djordjevic, who guided his team to the World Cup silver medal last year. ''But then we found our game and played solid defense.''
Finland coach Henrik Dettmann said his team played well for 30 minutes but then fell short.
''How they (the Serbs) share the ball, 30 assists, wow. They are committed, they are playing for each other,'' he said.
The Czech Republic took command early and never relented, leading by as many as 30 against a Croatia team that had been considered favorite.
''The heart of the players, the commitment was the difference,'' the Czechs' Israeli coach Ronen Ginzburg said.
Croatia played without energy despite a number of NBA players in the team and never looked like it could trouble the Czechs.
Vesely had 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Satoransky added 15 points, 11 assists and five rebounds. Bojan Bogdanovic had 12 points for Croatia.
''It's an unbelievable feeling, we were confident,'' Czech guard Jiri Welsch said. ''When they are on, they are one of the best teams in Europe. But they can fall apart when they come under pressure.''
Croatia has not made the podium since 1995, when it finished third in Athens, Greece. But its players walked off the podium before the gold medals were presented to Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia as a result of tensions between the countries.
Croatia finished fourth two years ago but Sunday's defeat means it cannot qualify for the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro, like the other losers Sunday.
Coach Velimir Perasovic indicated he was going to step down, saying, ''my time is over, it's time to give an opportunity to others. ''
Krunoslav Simon, Croatia's top performer at the tournament, hobbled off in the third quarter with a right-ankle injury. He had nine points.
''This is the worst day in my life as basketball player,'' Simon said. ''I don't know what to say, I am so disappointed.''