Raptors' Kleiza Leads Lithuania in Near Upset of Team USA at Olympics


Quick Olympic post after what was a very entertaining match between Team USA and the Lithuanian national squad this morning. The US remains unbeaten after a 99 to 94 win, but it took a late surge by LeBron James to pull the US ahead for good. Lithuania played a very disciplined match at both ends, even taking the lead with about five minutes left.

Especially of interest for Toronto Raptors' fans was the play of Linas Kleiza, who continued his torrid scoring pace in international competition. He led Lithuania in scoring with 25 points, a game-high in fact, and grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists just to be safe. And while it took Linas 20 shots to get those 25 points, he did hit half of his attempts and was 3 of 4 from the free-throw line. It was an inspiring performance and one that allowed Kleiza to show off both his inside and outside game, scoring from long-range and in the post as a sort of Carmelo Anthony 1.0. It was a performance too that in many ways, puts Kleiza back on the NBA map as Team USA had a tough time dealing with his aggressive play.

Unfortunately the same could not be said for another Raptor participating in this AM's match, Jonas Valanciunas.

As has been the trend all Olympics, Jonas barely saw the court, playing only nine minutes, exiting for good early in the second half after receiving a Kobe Bryant elbow to the neck and knee to the groin on a Team USA drive.

Valanciunas had four points and a rebound in those nine minutes but looked overmatched the majority of the time, turning the ball over and unable to secure much in the way of a positional advantage down low.

While Lithuania's coach had been questioned in earlier matches regarding his lack of PT for Jonas, it was hard to make the same argument today. Team Lithuania simply matched up better to the "small-ball" US attack with Jonas out, and with Tyson Chandler playing only eight minutes himself, Jonas just wasn't looked at as a serious option for the Lithuanian side.

Again, I'm hoping Raptors' fans don't read too much into Valanciunas' play in these games, as the real test doesn't begin until the fall.

However there's a big takeaway for Kleiza, one that the National Post's Eric Koreen correctly noted via Twitter post-game:

"How do the Raptors unlock the international version of Kleiza this season?"

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