Niall Gray is following Team GB’s progress at Eurobasket 2011 – and here he blogs on the opening game against Lithuania.

One word – frustrating! Two years after the last Eurobasket where GB fought hard but continuously came up short, the opening game against hosts Lithuania was another example of GB failing to cross the winning line.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting a win going in, but our performance throughout large chunks of the game had me thinking it could be done. Dreams of an upset against a leading team ended up as a repeat of the Spain game from 2009.

So close, but in the end, so far.

Going to Lithuania was never going to be an option for me this year, so I settled down tonight to watch the game on television and choose the BBC red button over ESPN.

Sorry, but when Team GB are playing, I want to hear British commentators. As good as the North American guy was on ESPN, it just doesn’t feel right! It’s the same when I watch an NBA game, if the commentator is not American, it’s just odd!

The BBC coverage was being led by Ronald McIntosh and Martin Henlan and bar one case of commentators’ curse, which I will explain later, they did a decent job.

The news that Rob Archibald was going to miss the game through illness was soon forgotten as GB jumped out to a 6-0 lead. But then the hosts got back into the game and it was back and forth until Lithuania took control in the second quarter, to lead 49-39 at the half.

What a start though to the second half for Team GB as they came out flying in the third period! After falling behind by 12 points (51-39), the Brits fought back in style.

Deng drove down the lane for dunk and then setting up Freeland for a dunk of his own as GB used a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to 51-49.

For a while the Lithuanians were shell-shocked and when Joel Freeland scored a lay-up off an Andrew Lawrence pass, it gave GB a 55-54 lead.

To hold one of the teams who could win Eurobasket to just five points in the third quarter was a brilliant achievement and with 7 minutes left in the game, GB held a one-point lead.

But then the curse of the commentators kicked in. No sooner do McIntosh and Henlan start talking about GB’s inability to close out games, Lithuania take control. Someone let them know they are banned from discussing the topic again!

A combination of GB’s scoring drying up and Lithuania getting hot from three-point range would go on to seal our fate. Didn’t matter what GB did, Lithuania would come down the floor and sink three-pointer after three-pointer.

Final score 80-69, and another frustrating loss for GB. This one was there for the taking and we couldn’t close it out.

A few final thoughts on the game:

Dan Clark and Joel Freeland worked their socks off in the game and Clark especially just gets better every time I see him play.

Luol Deng showed why he is an NBA star but needs to work on his Kobe Bryant-like shooting percentage of under 37% from the field. Just dunk it more, Luol!

To anyone who moans about BBL refs, take a look at the supposed best officials in Europe. Some awful calls at times and the comment of the night came from the official GB Basketball Twitter feed who were suggesting the refs needed to make a trip to Specsavers!

Turkey up next and seeing as I don’t even enjoy a Turkey at Christmas, I’m not looking forward to the game, especially after the Turks beat up on Portugal.

If GB want to advance in Eurobasket, we have to beat one of the top three teams in the group and unless Spain continue the poor form they showed against Poland, Turkey will be our best chance to beat a top team.

Another two hours of stressful viewing awaits. Bring it on!

Pic: Map Photos

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