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Linas KLAIZA (LTU)
7th place game - 2006 FIBA World Championship , Saitama, Japan. Lithuania vs Germany. 030906
03/09/2006Game Report, Lithuania vs Germany, 77-62, 7th Place
SAITAMA (FIBA World Championship) - Darius Lavrinovic and Linas Kleiza combined for 34 points to lead Lithuania to a 77-62 victory over Germany and seventh place at the FIBA World Championship.

The game was decided early in the fourth quarter as Lithuania went on a 17-2 run to open the period while Germany went 11 and a half minutes without a basket.

Lavrinovic collected 18 points in just 19 minutes including a perfect three of three from long range. Kleiza continued his impressive end to the tournament with 16 points and seven rebounds.

"This is definitely a good result for us as we are a young team that is still trying to figure itself out," Kleiza said.

"The thing we were able to do today that we haven't done in recent games is just play our game, get a good lead and maintain it."

Darius Songalia chipped in with 13 points.

With the victory, Lithuania matched their seventh place finish in 1998, their only previous FIBA World Championship appearance.

Germany came into the tournament as the 2002 bronze medalists. But Dirk Bauermann's team achieved their goal of finishing among the top eight in the world

"We would have liked to have finished higher, but overall we played a good tournament," Bauermann said. "Had we beaten France, and we were in a great position to do so, we could have finished in fifth or sixth place. But anywhere between fifth and eighth is still great for us."

Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds while Ademola Okulaja added 10 points.

"It wasn't a great game. Obviously we started really slow. Our defense was terrible," Nowitzki said. "We were down 13 early but we kept battling back. They played zone defense at the end, and we couldn't really do anything against it."

"It's tough luck. But overall, finishing eighth in the world is not bad." Nowitzki added.

Germany, however, struggled throughout the game with Lituania's zone defense, shooting 36 percent from the field and turning the ball over 25 times.

"Our goal was to keep Dirk under 20 points, and that's what we did," Lithuania forward Mindaugas Zuzkauskas said.

Pascal Roller, who got the starting nod from Bauermann for the first time in the tournament, buried back-to-back three-pointers to give Germany a 13-11 lead with 5:44 left in the first period.

Lithuania though executed vey well, picking apart the German defense while out-scoring Bauermann's men 19-4 the rest of the quarter for a 30-17 advantage.

Lithuania's lead grew to 15 points - 38-23 - on a Lavrinovic trey. Jan Jagla answered right back with a three-pointer of his own and Johannes Herber and Okulaja each made a long ball as Germany closed the gap to 47-41 at the interval.

Nowitzki started the second half by converting a three-point play, which Okulaja followed with a three-point shot. And Germany's star big man evened the game at 49-49 with a break away dunk at the 6:17 mark.

But the Baltic nation worked the lead back up to 58-54 going into the fourth quarter on Kleiza's late three-point play.

In the final period, Lavrinovic scored six straight points and Darius Songalia added five consecutive as Lithuania blew the game wide open with a 17-2 spurt to start the fourth - 75-56.

Germany didn't score their first basket of the fourth quarter until Herber's three-pointer with 2:18 remaining - 11:33 since their last bucket. By that time the game was beyond reach and Germany could only close to 14 the rest of the way.

By David Hein
FIBA