NBA bigs Valanciunas, Vucevic look forward to ‘fun battle’ in Fiba World Cup


Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas goes for a hook shot against Mexico in the Fiba World Cup. -FIBA PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines-Jonas Valanciunas and Nikola Vucevic exchanged complementaries through the media after securing their teams’ place in the second round, as they now look ahead to their matchup on Tuesday to determine the Group D winner of the Fiba World Cup.

Convincing wins by Lithuania over Mexico and Montenegro at the expense of Egypt formally sent the two European nations in the next phase of the international basketball meet, and set the stage for the interior battle between the two NBA players.

“He’s a great player,” Valanciunas said of Vucevic after Lithuania’s 96-66 victory over Mexico at Mall of Asia Arena. “His basketball IQ is really high and he’s a great low post player.”

The New Orleans Pelicans center finished with another double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Lithuanian squad.

Nikola Vucevic Montenegro Fiba World Cup

Montenegro’s Nikola Vucevic during a game against Egypt in the Fiba World Cup. -MARLO CUETO/

Vucevic, who is with the Chicago Bulls, dealt Egypt an 89-74 defeat to put Montenegro two wins out of two games, a huge contrast to the fourth loss in five games it endured in the country’s maiden World Cup back in 2019.

“He’s a very physical guy, also has a very good skillset, very smart, tough to play against,” said Vucevic. “Obviously, I’m looking forward to it and we got to know each other off the court as well over the years, so it will definitely be a fun battle and I’m looking forward to it.”

The game will also play an important role in both countries’ bid to secure berths in the Paris Olympics. Two European slots for the Summer Games are at stake in the World Cup.

“It’s not gonna be easy, but we’re gonna fight back and we got to do what we’re supposed to do,” Valanciunas said.

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