Even before Sunday’s game ended, the USA had advanced to the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup. They advance to the eight-team knockout stage and face Italy on Tuesday (the winner of that game will play the winner of Germany vs. Latvia).
Team USA also qualified for the Paris Olympics thanks to defeats of the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Puerto Rico (making the United States one of the top two teams in the Americas at the World Cup, a qualifying measure).
None of this disguises the fact that the USA was completely out-run by Lithuania in the first half, dug itself a hole it couldn’t climb out of, and lost its first World Cup game, or its tracks, with the result lost 110-104. A game in which they never led.
Despite 35 points and a dominant performance from Anthony Edwards.
In the first four World Cup games (and most of its five tune-up games), Team USA overwhelmed opponents with their athleticism and depth. That talent gap masked issues like inconsistent defensive execution or a lack of size and physicality that at times allowed the United States to dominate the glass.
Lithuania was the first team the USA faced and failed to beat. Jonas Valanciunas got it Jaren Jackson Jr Faced with quick foul trouble, the Pelicans center had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Lithuania brought a balanced attack with seven players in double figures (but none more than 15), and that doesn’t include nine points from former Rockets Donatas Motijunas and Rooks Jokubaitis. Knicks draft has its own rights). Lithuania performed and America was no match in the first half.
“We were on a roll the whole first half,” USA coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “They were messing with us and we definitely had some miscommunications.
“But like I said, we improved in the second half. We played a lot harder – which we have to – and we had our chances. They made some very tough off-balance plays that allowed them to stay ahead. When a team like this “It gets the job done, you give them credit. But like I said, we’ll learn from this, we have a tape team that we have to watch and see what we need to improve on and go from there.”
This photo epitomizes the Lithuanian game – even when the US was doing everything right, the Europeans were playing.
In the first half, the USA offense got a lot of isolation basketball and Lithuania filled the paint when one of the Americans drove. The USA was unable to find and capitalize on the athleticism advantage it had in previous games, resulting in a 97.9 offensive rating in the first half.
On the other hand, Lithuania had a near-perfect first quarter, shooting 6-for-6 from 3 and grabbing seven offensive rebounds. Jackson Jr
Unpleasant problems hampered the questionable domestic defense of the United States, and Lithuania had its way (although Walker Kessler It was strong for a few minutes). Lithuania led by 19 points after one quarter and 21 early in the second quarter.
Part of that was because Lithuania was hot, starting the game 9-9 from 3. Lithuania started to pound the ball in again, catching the mismatch – aiming Austin Reeves In particular, and putting him with older players – and reached 17 in half. Lithuania had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and simply outscored the United States.
At the end of the half, the USA turned up the defensive pressure and went on a 9-0 run that led to a 15-2 run that put them right back in the game. The US began to put more pressure on the ball and shut it down (plus more timely assists) which led to some transition opportunities where the US thrived. At half-court, the USA moved the ball again, and it was two to play Jalen Branson And Mikal Bridges Scored 14 points.
The U.S. kept that defensive pressure up, but every time the U.S. made a run, Lithuania had an answer. Lithuania continued to execute, making buckets, hitting enough 3s and making saves for the win. Lithuania deserves credit for a well-executed game plan. The roster showed both physicality and finesse in this game, earning them a big win (Lithuania advanced to the quarterfinals, where they will face Serbia).
The loss ultimately did little to hurt the United States. They are still climbing the World Cup and are three wins away from a gold medal, even if the going gets a little tougher. Plus, Team USA is going to Paris, which was the main goal of the tournament.
However, Sunday should have served as a wake-up call. The U.S. will have to be better to keep winning, and that starts with Italy on Tuesday.