When LeBron James, and the rest of team USA were asked about who posed the biggest threat to the team in the Olympics, Spain and Argentina were at the top of the list. However, Lithuania, who lost to both Argentina and France, managed to put up a formidable fight in what was the toughest challenge for team USA yet. You can read the game recap of all quarters and a brief game review below.
Following their loss against France, Lithuania decided to mix it up in the starting lineup. Renaldas Seibutis and Sarunas Jasikevicius started the game in place of Jonas Maciulis and Mantas Kalnietis. Chris Paul started the game hot, knocking down a couple of shots and finding Durant for a 3-pointer. Tyson Chandler made sure to keep Lithuania out of the paint, and USA’s perimeter defense was terrific, until Seibutis eventually found a gap. Coming off his record-breaking performance, Carmelo Anthony continued his hot-steak, as he beat the 1st quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer that gave USA a 33-25 lead. Kleiza was hot in the first quarter, scoring 13 points. USA scored 8 points off Lithuania’s 5 turnovers in the first quarter.
USA started the quarter well, stretching the lead to double digits following Durant’s three and Harden’s and-one. Lithuania managed to battle back, and as Martynas Pocius hit a 3-pointer, they cut the gap down to 5 points. It took the high-flying team USA 16 minutes and 40 seconds to finally get a dunk, as Anthony threw it down off a Lithuania turnover. Deron Williams missed the last shot of the quarter, and team USA held a 55-51 lead going into the break. Linas Kleiza led all scorers with 16 at the break, while Carmelo Anthony scored 14 points for team USA.
Lithuania came out determined to fight in the 3rd quarter. Valanciunas scored on a layup and Jasikevicius hit a 3-pointer to give Lithuania their first lead of the game. Clearly upset, LeBron James went to work scoring on several possessions, and team USA regained a 6-point lead. Lithuania remained resilient, and Martynas Pocius beat the buzzer as he shook of Kobe Bryant with a nice spin move. With 5:32 remaining in the game, Lithuania committed a 5th foul, and were in the bonus early on, which helped team USA. Paulius Jankunas broke loose in the paint, and put down the exclamation mark with his dunk, which tied the game. Team USA managed to put together a small run to end the quarter with a 78-72 lead.
Martynas Pocius continued his aggressive play in the 4th quarter, taking the ball to the basket with success. With the shot clock winding down, Kleiza hit a huge 3-point shot to give Lithuania a 82-80 lead. Kevin Durant answered with a huge dunk off an amazing Chris Paul bounce pass to tie the game. As team USA were clearly in shock, a certain 3-time NBA MVP stepped up. LeBron James hit a momentum changing 3-point shot, and followed that up with a huge dunk, as USA forced a turnover. James continued his heroics with a tough shot in the paint, and another layup. USA finally iced the game and won with the final result being 99-94.
Following the massive blowout victory against Nigeria, team USA almost had an invincibility aura around them. Lithuania made sure to send the message: the gold medals will have to be earned on the court. While team USA did a lot of things wrong in the game, you have to give credit to Lithuania, who came out with nothing to lose, and finished the game with their heads held high. USA shot 10-33 (30%) from the 3-point line, and a lot of the shots they took were decent shots. USA had to rely on individual excellence, as well as fast-break points on offense, as they only had 13 assists for the game.
Team USA did, however, force 23 turnovers and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, and should’ve won the game with relative ease, had they shot better.
I really like the play of Martynas Pocius. Before the tournament I wrote that he would be the guy to ignite Lithuania’s offense, with his ability to take the ball to the basket, and I was glad to see him do just that. Kleiza also hit quite a few big shots, finishing the game with 25 points. The best player in the world, LeBron James, was ultimately the difference. James was absolutely huge, hitting clutch shots that got team USA over the hump.
Kleiza led all scorers with 25, while James and Anthony scored 20 each.