Thursday, September 5, 2013
Observations from Jonas Valanciunas vs. Serbia
Yesterday marked the start of Eurobasket 2013 (otherwise known as the one thing hardcore basketball fans cling to during this god-awful offseason). Right off the bat, Finland pulled off a huge upset against Turkey (boasting Asik, Ilyasova, Turkoglu) and Spain dominated, if not coasted, to an easy victory against Croatia.
But you don't care about any of that. What you're interested in is how Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania fared against the Serbians (63-58 Serbia).
Well, not so hot. He scored a grand total of 2 points (1/1 FG), 2 rebounds (both defensive) and two turnovers on 11 minutes played and 4 fouls given. Not exactly his best work.
However, there were a lot of nuances missed by the boxscore.
FOUL TROUBLE AND LIMITED MINUTES
First, those four fouls were his downfall. Eurobasket games are shorter in duration (4x10 minutes) and the foul limit is set at 5. However, two of those foul fouls were bogus. Jonas was called for an illegal screen in the first quarter, despite firmly holding his ground (it was probably a flop by the Serbian guard). He was called for yet another offensive foul while he was in the post against Nenad Kristic, who took an egregious flop (even the play-by-play man noted this). Those offensive fouls also doubled as his two turnovers for the game.
The Lithuanian head coach also seemed to prioritize shooting over offensive rebounding and rim protection. He opted to play jumpshooting big men in the hopes of stretching the floor. If this trend continues, this could significantly limit Valanciunas's floor time in future games.
Offensively, Jonas was used sparingly at best. I'm not really familiar enough with Lithuania's pecking order, but it looked like Jonas was not prioritized (one shot attempt). Oftentimes he would carve out great post position, only to be looked off by the (very mediocre) wings of Lithuania, who instead opted to shoot a three pointer (LIT was 6/22 from 3).
His one made field goal came on a post-up on the left block. He muscled his way into the paint and dropped the sweeping right hand hook for a pretty basket.
He was defended by a combination of Nenad Kristic and Rasko Katic. Both players are strong and savvy veterans who knew how to defend. Valanciunas could not physically overpower either player, and struggled to grab rebounds against these two.
Jonas was relatively more successful on defense. Jonas started the game defending Katic, while Houston's Motiejunas handled Nenad Krstic. Katic is crafty, but certainly not an offensive threat beyond rebounding and sealing his defender. On the other hand, Krstic dominated Motiejunas and scored 10 points in the first half.
The Lithuanian head coach decided to shift Jonas onto Krstic after halftime. The start of the third quarter featured a heated duel between the two big men, as both teams made a concerted effort to post-up each player. Jonas managed to stop Krstic twice in three attempts, but Kristic flopped while defending Jonas, which sent Jonas to the bench. Krstic proceeded to score 18 points on 53% shooting against the remaining Lithuanian front-line.
Valanciunas wasn't very effective. He saw limited minutes due to foul trouble (a lot of which was bogus), and he was not prioritized within the Lithuanian offense. He was tasked to defend Serbia's best post-scorer, and performed well in limited minutes.
Hopefully, this game was more an outlier than the norm. If he manages to stay out of foul trouble, he should be a big plus for Lithuania on defense (there really isn't any rim defending aside from JV). Ideally, he should get more touches on offense, but the Lithuanian guards really struggled with getting him the ball in the post, and they did not seem very interested in running a pick-and-roll with him either.
In Jonas we trust.