After blowing out Nigeria by a margin I still cannot believe, 83 points, Team USA had a different experience today against Lithuania.
Most of us had already expected that USA won’t be able to do the same things they did to Nigeria today against a better Lithuanian basketball team that has had some minor success in the past. Lithuania is a tough minded basketball club and a team very much different than USA’s last opponent.
However, today not much of us expected it to be this close of a contest. Luckily, the end result was still the same as what we expected it to be. So, again, the questions about Team USA’s capability of winning the gold medal this year has risen once again much like the Dark Knight (great movie by the way).
Somewhat like their match against Nigeria, Team USA started out strong, although not as strong but still pretty effective by ending the first quarter with an 8 point lead. Whenever Team USA plays, an 8 point lead is almost nothing, it means that the opposing team is doing something right to keep themselves within striking distance and Lithuania was very much within that distance.
Down only 4 points heading into the second half, Team USA started to look a bit wary and out of sync despite having much time to rest and enjoy the 83 point victory. The 3 point bomb which worked to near perfection in their last contest seemed to be out of range today as Team USA shot 30% from the field making only 10 three pointers instead of 29.
Team USA entered the final quarter with a 6 point lead and Lithuania felt like it was time for them to take control of the game. Lithuania opened up the final quarter with a 7-2 run which closed the gap to within 1 point. And after a Team USA timeout, Toronto Raptors forward Linas Kleiza hit a three pointer which gave Lithuania an 82-80 advantage. Silence. Team USA was down in the fourth and looked poised to be on the bad side of an upset. Team USA fortunately, found a way to answer back with Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul making a three point shot and finding Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams for a layup. Lithuania would then find themselves now down 3 points with 4:28 left in the game and would call a timeout. After that, it became the NBA’s League MVP’s time to shine.
As I have stated in my preview here, Miami Heat forward LeBron James is one player Lithuania should look out for as he only had 6 points an 0 three pointers in USA’s huge victory over Nigeria. LeBron would score 9 of Team USA’s final 12 points of the game which included basically everything. A three pointer, a dunk, a layup, and lastly a two-point jumpshot and after that Team USA had a 99-90 lead with 1:12 left and would close it out.
LeBron James would end up finishing with 20 points and 5 rebounds to lead Team USA. Off the bench, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who scored 37 points including 10 three pointers in 14 minutes the last game, had 20 points as well but just made 2 three pointers this time. Starting forward Kevin Durant finished with 16 points which included a 4 for 7 shooting from distance. Deron Williams came off the bench to score 12 points including a couple of three pointers during the final quarter.
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love had a game-high 8 rebounds and had 7 points coming off the bench. Rookie Anthony Davis who is shooting 100% in the past two games didn’t play today. Starting point guard Chris Paul finished with 7 points, 6 assists, and 7 rebounds.
For Lithuania, they were led by forward Linas Kleiza who finished with a game-high 25 points on 50% shooting from the field. Guard/Forward Martynas Pocius finished with 14 points, 6 assists, and 7 rebounds. Former NBA big man Darius Songaila finished with 11 points coming off the bench. #5 overall pick by the Toronto Raptors in 2011, Jonas Valanciunas a.k.a “Big V”, who will be making his NBA debut this coming NBA season, only finished with 4 points and a rebound.