In a game that wasn’t supposed to be a nailbiter, the U.S. defeated Lithuania, 99-94.
The 8-point lead the Americans held after Q1 proved just enough. The Lithuanians took a 2-point lead midway through Q4, but shortly after a determined LeBron James keyed the U.S. win by draining a 3, then had a easy cram following a turnover. The U.S. was never threatened after that.
LeBron tied with Carmelo Anthony for team-high, each with 20 points, while Kevin Durant chipped in 16. Kobe Bryant took the game off (or so it seemed), contributing 1 lonely bucket on his way to a feeble 6 points.
The most glaring statistic of the game was the steals differential, with the U.S. winning that battle by a shocking 17-3. The steal’s kissin’ cousin, the turnover, was also a huge U.S. advantage, as they forced 23 to the Lithuanians’ 9. The Balticmen out-rebounded the Yanks 42-37, but the Americans got to the free throw line 31 times to their opponents’ 19. Oddly the U.S. had 8 more points from charity than Lithuania, exactly the margin of victory, despite their percentage being lower.
The Raptors’ Lithuanians, Linas Kleiza and Jonas Valanciunas, had games so similar to their previous ones that I’m running out of ways to say the same thing differently. Linas led his team’s scoring with 25 points, including a pair of 3s on 6 tries. He also shot 8-14 from 2-point-land, and 3-4 from the charity stripe. Add in 3 assists and 5 boards in almost 30 minutes of PT, and you’ve got another dandy game in a losing effort.
JV had an excellent vantage point to watch this thriller, as he was once again planted on the end of the bench. He barely got to break a sweat, playing 8+ minutes and scoring 4 points. This tournament was supposed to be JV’s introduction to the world stage, but it appears he didn’t receive his invitation.
The U.S. will play Argentina to complete round-robin play, after which they are off to the knockout round. Lithuania has a game left against Tunisia, and a victory will ensure their place in the quarterfinals.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.