Lithuania 83, Croatia 81, 2 OT
ATLANTA (AP) _ Rimas Kurtinaitis scored nine of his 12 points in the second overtime Saturday and Lithuania prevailed 83-81 over Croatia in an Olympic game of attrition.
The game was the opener for both teams in the men’s tournament and also a meeting of the two best teams after the United States in Pool A. It lived up to its billing as the top matchup of the early rounds.
Kurtinaitis, one of the heroes of the Soviet Union’s gold medal victory in 1988 and a member of Lithuania’s bronze medal winners at Barcelona four years ago, had a four-point play with 2:57 left to give Lithuania a 78-77 lead. He hit a 3-pointer with 1:09 left that gave his team an 81-80 lead.
Dino Radja made one of two free throws with 31 seconds left to give Croatia its last tie, and the 36-year-old Kurtinaitis ended the scoring by making free throws in the final 30 seconds.
The loss offset a brilliant 33-point performance by Croatia’s Toni Kukoc, who played with white tape on his broken left thumb, his shooting hand.
A member of the NBA champion Chicago Bulls, Kukoc singlehandedly kept Croatia in the game in the second half, scoring 19 of its 35 points in the second 20-minute period. He handled the ball, grabbed a number of key rebounds and again was the presence he’d been in recent international competitions.
Lithuania had four players foul out and starting forward Arturas Karnishovas was forced to the bench in the first overtime when he turned his right ankle grabbing a rebound. Croatia had five players foul out.
Croatia had the last shot of both regulation and the first overtime.
Kukoc tied the game 66-66 with two free throws with 26 seconds left in regulation. Lithuania turned the ball over on the inbounds play and Croatia worked the clock down. Kukoc missed a 3 from the left side with two seconds left.
In the first overtime, Saulius Stombergas of Lithuania tied the game 72-72 on a side jumper with 1:12 left. Croatia turned the ball over, but Arvydas Sabonis missed a hook shot with 27 seconds left. Again, Croatia worked the clock down and Davor Marcelic missed a 3 from the right corner at the buzzer.
Sabonis, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers, led Lithuania with 20 points, while Karnishovas, who played at Seton Hall, added 16 and Sarunas Marciulionis of the Denver Nuggets had 14.