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Americans Handle Greece, Lithuania Eliminated from Medal Contention

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

The Pacers' two starting big men were on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum on Saturday at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.

Myles Turner anchored a dominant defensive performance as the United States handled reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece, 69-53, in Shenzhen.

But in Nanjing, Domantas Sabonis and Lithuania put together a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback, only to fall in heartbreaking fashion to France, 78-75. The loss officially eliminated Lithuania from advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals.

Turner had a solid showing for the Americans on Saturday, tallying eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, seven rebounds, and two blocks in 14:28.

PHOTO GALLERY: Myles Turner at 2019 FIBA World Cup »

The 23-year-old big man got involved early, blocking Nick Calathes in the opening minutes of Saturday's contest and then converting a difficult finish over Antetokounmpo in the pick-and-roll to give the USA its first lead at the 7:24 mark in the first quarter.

He added six more points and another block as the United States closed the first half on a 9-2 run to open up a 13-point lead. Turner converted a hook shot with 3:48 left in the second quarter, blocked Antetokounmpo at thee 1:39 mark, scored on a driving layup with 55 seconds remaining, and then knocked down two free throws for the final points of the half.

The Americans were never seriously threatened the rest of the way, as they stifled the Greek offense, holding the two-time European champions to just 32 percent shooting.

Kemba Walker led the USA with 15 points, four rebounds, and six assists in the victory, while Donovan Mitchell added 10 points, five boards, and three assists.

Antetokounmpo finished with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 13 rebounds, two steals, and one block for Greece.

The United States is now 4-0 for the tournament and atop Group K with one game remaining in the second round. The top two teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals and the Americans led win their group with a win over Brazil on Monday (8:30 AM ET on ESPN+).

Lithuania, on the other hand, saw its hopes of advancing dashed on Saturday. Their loss to France, coupled with Australia's win over the Dominican Republic, mean that Lithuania (2-2) will finish at best in third place in Group L.

France led by double digits for most of Saturday's contest, including an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter. But the Lithuanians battled back, eventually taking a 69-68 lead after Sabonis drove and dished to Lukas Lekavicius for a 3-pointer with 4:27 to play.

The two teams went back-and-forth down the stretch, but Evan Fournier's floater with 53 seconds remaining broke a 74-74 tie and proved to be the game-winner. Jonas Valanciunas drew a foul on the other end but only converted one of two free throws. Nando De Colo converted a fadeaway with 15 seconds left to make it a three-point game, and then Jonas Maciulis missed a shot that would have forced overtime.

Sabonis logged 26:04 on Saturday, finishing with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and one block.

PHOTO GALLERY: Domantas Sabonis at 2019 FIBA World Cup »

Valanciunas led Lithuania with 18 points and eight boards in the loss.

Fournier poured in 24 points for France, while De Colo added 21.

Lithuania still has one group game remaining against the Dominican Republic on Monday (4:00 AM ET on ESPN+).

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