Great Britain dropped to 0-3 at EuroBasket with a 86-69 defeat to reigning champions Spain on Friday in Panevezys that leaves them on the brink of an early exit.
Although Chris Finch’s side – led by 17 points from Luol Deng – stood up to their Group A rivals for the entire second half, their challenge faded.
And they now face a must-win game against fellow strugglers Portugal on Sunday to retain even a slender hope of reaching the second round.
No easy task.
Although Spain rushed into an 11-2 lead, Deng inspired a rally that saw GB go 21-19 in front when Dan Clark hit a three-pointer early in the second quarter. The verve, that had been absent the previous evening against Turkey, was back.
“I think the first half was some of the best basketball we’ve played since we’ve been in Lithuania,” said Clark. It wasn’t to last. The Spanish went on a 7-0 run to sweep ahead for good, building a 38-32 half-time cushion. It only hinted at what lay ahead.
A burst of 10 unanswered points in the third killed off the contest and even with Kyle Johnson converting a half-court shot on the buzzer, Britain trailed by a mammoth 60-45 margin going into the final period.
With Pau and Marc Gasol – who added 18 points and 11 rebounds – dominating inside, and Deng limited by Spain’s defensive attentions, GB – again without Rob Archibald – simply had no answer as the deficit grew to as much as 25 before Ogo Adegboye hit 8 late points in a face-saving rally.
“Spain looked very good tonight,” said Finch. “They did a good job of doing exactly what they needed to do against us which is taking advantage of the inside game and they pulled away in the second half.
“They were very strong and very disciplined in doing so. I was disappointed with how we responded to that. We didn’t pick up our defensive intensity in the second half and we could never really get that rhythm.”
Lithuania joined Spain on a 3-0 record after holding off Turkey 75-68 in a thrilling finale as two of the group’s big three squared off for the first time.
In a game with 13 lead changes and 13 ties, the hosts – roared on by an intense crowd – stood tall in the closing minutes, closing with an 8-1 run to steal victory.
Darius Songalia had 12 points in a hugely balanced effort for the Lithuanians who had trailed 27-21 in the second quarter but who ultimately finished strongest.
Poland pulled away in the fourth quarter to defeat Portugal 81-73.
Notes: GB starters: Lenzly, Reinking, Deng, Clark, Freeland. Spain: Calderon, Navarro, Fernandez, M Gasol, P Gasol
GB can now progress only if they win their final two group ties, against Portugal and Poland, and then were to end up in a three-way tie for third place on a 2-3 record.
Group A. Great Britain 69 Spain 86, Lithuania 75 Turkey 68, Portugal 73 Poland 81. Group B. Serbia 89 Israel 80, Latvia 62 Italy 71, France 76 Germany 65
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