The New Orleans Pelicans’ Jonas Valanciunas on Saturday was dominant in Lithuania’s 93-80 victory over Puerto Rico in New Taipei City in their warm-up for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The Baltic giant had 20 points and 11 rebounds in just more than 19 minutes on the court, while four of his teammates also scored in the double figures as Lithuania lived up to their world No. 8 ranking at Hsinchuang Gymnasium.
Valanciunas was the only NBA player in Saturday’s game as injuries sidelined three-time NBA All-Star Domantas Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings and Puerto Rico’s Jose Alvarado, a teammate of Valanciunas’ on the Pelicans.
The Lithuanian’s game has not always received the highest praise, with Bleacher Report last month calling him one of the NBA’s five most overrated players.
“I don’t really follow those,” Valanciunas said on Saturday, adding that he would just “go by my heart.”
He preferred to talk about how well balanced the Lithuanian team has become.
“Everybody is shooting threes now. Everybody is running the floor, but we balance that with a game inside the paint,” he said.
Lithuania head coach Kazys Maksvytis praised the Pelicans center for his efficiency on the court despite the limited time he has trained with the national team.
Even with only one NBA player, the teams still got the crowd excited, with help from Puerto Rico’s Jordan Howard and Tremont Waters.
The two guards combined for 30 points, showing off their ball-handling and ability to make tough shots, with passes that threaded the team together and helped Puerto Rico gain the upper hand at one point.
“I could tell obviously from [the audience’s] excitement that they were enjoying the passes and the way my guys were making shots off the passes. So from my heart I definitely appreciated the love and excitement,” Waters said with a smile after the game.
Puerto Rico yesterday lost 84-72 to Lativa.
Latvia and Lithuania face off tomorrow.
Lithuania, Latvia and Puerto Rico are in Group D, H and B respectively, and the top two from each four-team group advance to the round of 16.
The FIBA World Cup is being held from Friday to Sept. 10 across the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.