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Lithuania unleashing third-quarter fury
- Updated: September 2, 2014
GRAN CANARIA (FIBA Basketball World Cup) – It's almost as reliable as Swiss clockwork: once the disciplined Lithuanian machine emerges from the half-time break, the intensity will go through the roof – you can set your watch to it.
In their past 10 games at FIBA's flagship event, Lithuania have won eight third quarters, the only exceptions coming against Spain and the USA.
Against all other opponents, they've averaged 25.3 points while giving up just 15 in the 10 minutes after intermission, setting up their bronze medal in 2010 and an undefeated start at Spain 2014.
Guard Martynas Pocius has an interesting explanation for their extraordinary consistency in this part of the game.
"It might be a lot of times we're not playing well in the first half and coach (Jonas Kazlauskas) whips our butts at half-time and we have to start playing," he laughed.
"Maybe it's that, maybe it's coincidence, but at least we're doing it, at least we're stepping up."
Lithuania has outscored Mexico and Angola 47-26 in third periods this tournament, but the African champs didn't wilt, Pocius acknowledging their physical opponents "gave it to us" and "had us out of our rhythm".
Pocius feels if his team is to take top spot in Group D they must be more consistent in their fast-paced, high-pressure style.
"We have one day off to regroup, and now our opponents are going to be really strong," he said.
"We've played against both Australia and Slovenia (in the lead-up) and we know they're strong teams, so we've got to go back to playing our game."
The Boomers present a tough assignment for Pocius and Co on Tuesday, their trapping defence sure to target the Mantas Kalnietis-less backcourt.
"That's exactly what we've talked about," said Pocius.
"After Mantas went down, all our guards have to step up and give a little extra because his presence is invaluable to us, so right now we have to all do a bit more."
Now in his fifth straight season in the national team, Pocius says his body feels the strain of long professional and international seasons, but his heart will not let him rest.
"It's tough working all the summer, but when a tournament like this comes along the emotion comes in," he said.
"That's what you train for your whole year – for the emotions, for the fan support. It's an invaluable experience, because a basketball career isn't super long and these tournaments are something I will always remember."