Domantas Sabonis

Jonas Valanciunas
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Jonas Valanciunas, Domantas Sabonis headline Lithuania Olympic team

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NBA big men Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis headline Lithuania’s 12-man Olympic basketball roster announced Saturday.

Lithuania, one of the best Olympic men’s basketball nations of the last 25 years, lost five straight Olympic semifinals from 1992 through 2008. It was beaten by Russia in the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals.

Lithuania qualified for Rio by beating 2014 World silver medalist Serbia in the EuroBasket semifinals Sept. 18 before it lost to Spain in the final.

Valanciunas, then 20, was the youngest player on the 2012 Lithuanian Olympic team that included NBA veterans Sarunas JasikeviciusLinas Kleiza and Darius Songalia, all of whom are not on the Rio Olympic team.

Valanciunas averaged 11.2 minutes per game in London but grew into his nation’s most valuable player at EuroBasket, averaging 16 points per game in last year’s tournament.

Sabonis, the 20-year-old son of longtime Lithuanian star Arvydas Sabonis, is the youngest player on this year’s Olympic team. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the NBA Draft on June 23. He appeared in four of nine games at 2015 EuroBasket.

Lithuania was one of three nations to beat the U.S. at the 2004 Athens Olympics (Puerto Rico, Argentina) and played the U.S. the closest of any nation at Sydney 2000 (two-point loss) and London 2012 (five-point loss).

The U.S. routed Lithuania by 28 points in the 2014 FIBA World Cup semifinals.

MORE: Argentina Olympic team includes Ginobili, more NBA veterans

Lithuania dumps Serbia in EuroBasket, qualifies for Rio Olympics

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Lithuania, one of the best Olympic men’s basketball nations of the last 25 years, wasn’t able to qualify for the London 2012 Games until 20 days before that Opening Ceremony.

It can rest easy this time around.

The Lithuanians held off reigning World silver medalist Serbia 67-64 in the EuroBasket semifinals Friday to clinch an Olympic berth, more than 10 months before the Rio Opening Ceremony.

Its EuroBasket roster includes Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas (team-high 15 points against Serbia) and Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, the son of longtime center Arvydas Sabonis who did not play against Serbia.

Serbia is now in the position Lithuania was four years ago, having to go to a global, last-chance qualifying tournament in July to earn its spot in Rio. France and Canada are also among the nations going to one of three, winner-take-all, last-chance qualifiers.

Lithuania became the eighth nation to qualify for the 12-team Rio Olympic men’s basketball tournament. The field is as follows:

Brazil — Host nation
U.S. — 2014 World champion
Australia — Oceania champion
Nigeria — Africa champion
Argentina — Americas finalist
Venezuela — Americas finalist
Spain — Europe finalist
Lithuania — Europe finalist
Asian champion (October)
Three winners of three July global, last-chance qualifying tournaments

Lithuania lost in five straight Olympic semifinals from 1992 through 2008.

Then it was shocked in the EuroBasket 2011 quarterfinals, falling 67-65 to Macedonia in Kaunas, Lithuania, and being forced to the global, last-chance qualifier in July 2012.

Lithuania qualified for London, reached the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals and lost to eventual bronze medalist Russia. It marked Lithuania’s worst finish at an Olympics after splitting from the Soviet Union and debuting at Barcelona 1992.

Lithuania was one of three nations to beat the U.S. at the Athens 2004 Olympics (Puerto Rico, Argentina) and played the U.S. the closest of any nation at Sydney 2000 (two-point loss) and London 2012 (five-point loss).

The U.S. routed Lithuania by 28 points in the 2014 FIBA World Cup semifinals.

MORE BASKETBALL: Pau Gasol lifts Spain into Rio 2016

Lithuania, Serbia to play for Rio Olympic men’s basketball spot

Jonas Valanciunas
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Lithuania and Serbia, two nations with decades of international basketball tradition, will play for one Olympic berth in the EuroBasket semifinals on Friday.

In the quarterfinals Wednesday, Lithuania outlasted Italy 95-85 in overtime. Earlier, Serbia beat the Czech Republic 89-75.

Spain and France will play in the other EuroBasket semifinal in Lille, France, with an Olympic berth at stake Thursday. More on that showdown here.

The EuroBasket finalists qualify for the Rio Olympics. The third- through seventh-place finishers advance to global, last-chance qualifying tournaments in July, one month before the Olympics.

Serbia hasn’t qualified for an Olympic basketball tournament since it split from Montenegro before the Beijing 2008 Olympics. As part of Yugoslavia, it took silver at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.

Serbia also fell to the U.S. in the final of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Lithuania lost in five straight Olympic semifinals from 1992 through 2008 and made the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals. Its EuroBasket roster includes Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas and Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, the son of longtime center Arvydas Sabonis.

The U.S., Brazil, Australia, Nigeria, Argentina and Venezuela are the first six nations in the 12-team Olympic field. The EuroBasket finalists and next month’s Asian champion will join them, plus three nations from the global, last-chance qualifying tournaments in July.

MORE BASKETBALL: Canada’s return to Olympic basketball on hold after heartbreaking loss