The one true large adult son of the Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas, is having himself a time in this year’s FIBA Eurobasket tournament. Unlike his trials last year, when it seemed as though Jonas was going through an existential crisis — a big no-no for your average large adult son — this time out, JV is ripping and running and urging Lithuania on to a successful tourney.
Earlier today, Jonas and the Lithuanian men’s national team played their final game of the group stage of the EuroBasket tournament. It was a romp against Germany (final score: 89-72), which brought the Lithuanians to a record of 4-1, and first place in the standings. (Only Slovenia, at 5-0 — and potentially Spain, at 4-0 right now — has done better.) And it’s not a stretch to say Valanciunas has been a large part of the team’s success. Owing to that sentiment, let’s recap the big man’s performances so far.
Game 1 - Georgia beats Lithuania, 97-77
It was not the best of starts for Lithuania. This we know for sure. And what’s more, it looked as though Jonas had not yet escaped from whatever mental black hole he had tumbled into last season. His line in this game: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, a -10, and a curiously quiet fourth quarter. Not the worst, surely, but not befitting the fulcrum of a national team.
Plus, who loses to Georgia? (I mean, besides also Team Israel.) This is a team that had not one, but two, sub-70 point outings. Not the best look.
Game 2 - Lithuania beats Israel, 88-73
That’s more like it! Lithuania gets back to its winning ways (by beating a team currently in a fight for last place). In a modest 21 minutes, Jonas put up 11 points, 10 rebounds (including four on the offensive glass), and chipped in with 2 more assists, which is modestly amazing for him in back-to-back games. Only needed four shots too — somewhere Dwane Casey is beaming.
Game 3 - Lithuania beats Italy, 87-82
Now some more considerable competition: the Italians! Led by NBA-ers Marco Belinelli and Luigi Datome, Italy made Jonas and the Lithuanians work for their win. (Sadly, Andrea Bargnani no longer wears the azzurri blue so we could not achieve the JV-Bargs singularity.) In another quiet-ish game, Jonas scored 13 points, grabbed 8 boards, and finished a +3. He didn’t complete any assists though, ending his wild streak at, uh, two games.
Game 4 - Lithuania beats Ukraine, 94-62
This... this was a beat down. Whatever “finding themselves” journey the Lithuanian team was on, they hit upon the answer against Ukraine. And for his part, Valanciunas was every bit the big man he’s been purported to be for years. In just 24 minutes, Jonas ad 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, plus 15 rebounds. Don’t believe me? Check the highlights. As the commentator says: “Jonas Valanciunas is a dangerous man.”
Game 5 - Lithuania beats Germany, 89-72
And now we come full circle to where we began, against Germany. Again the Lithuanians had themselves a time, and Jonas was at the forefront. The Raptors big man had 35 points (yes, 35) on 10-of-16 shooting, grabbed another 15 boards, including — somehow — 7 on the offensive end, and then chipped in with a block and an assist on the way to an uber-efficient +23 on the game. Boy howdy, I’m sure Raps fans back home will take this information in stride.
For the tourney so far, Valanciunas is averaging 26 minutes, 16.4 points, and 11.4 rebounds (good for second overall), while shooting 62.8 percent from the floor (third overall). Not a bad run of play for the big boy.
The FIBA EuroBasket 2017 tournament continues, of course, with the final games of the group stage happening today and tomorrow (Sept. 6th and 7th). The Round of 16 will begin on Saturday, September 9th, with Lithuania taking on either Greece or Finland (the 4th place team in Group A). The whole thing wraps up with the title game on Sept. 17. Get ready.