Team USA Narrowly Escapes Lithuania
LONDON - Team USA got quite the scare Saturday from a more-than-ready Lithuanian squad. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points each, and Kevin Durant added 16 to lead the Americans to a narrow 99-94 victory.
Coming on the heels of an 83-point win over Nigeria, the biggest blowout in Olympic basketball history, few people thought Lithuania (who lost to Nigeria in Olympic qualifying) would give Team USA much, if any trouble. But a lackluster defensive effort and a heavy reliance on the three-point shot let Lithuania hang around the whole game.
The Lithuanians even held an 84-82 lead with under six minutes to play until America's veteran players took the game over.
Deron Williams and James combined for the team's final 14 points as America went on a 17-6 run to seal the game. James says while he would have preferred a better performance, he understands close games will come along.
"You want to get tested," James said. "The best teams want to be tested. We love the competition. We've got some of the greatest competitors in our league, in this world, so you want to have a game where you feel like you were tested, and we had that today."
Durant agreed with James, adding that while the game did get tight, he was confident in his teammates.
"No. I never doubted. We have so many good players and so many good fourth quarter players and guys stepped up."
A couple of the good players Durant referenced are his OKC Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Westbrook contributed seven points on 3-7 shooting in 14 minutes of play. Harden only got four minutes of playing time, but did convert on a big three-point play to help the Americans.
Although it may have been ugly, a win is a win and Team USA is one step closer to a gold medal. The quest will continue against a very tough Argentinian team on Monday.
Durant and head coach Mike Krzyzewski agreed that they are proud of the team's resilience, and winning a tight one can be a good wake-up call.
"Not every game is going to be easy," Durant said. "This team is very well coached and they played hard. Our guys did a great job responding."
"You'd like to win every game by 30 points, light up the cigar or put your feet up," Krzyzewski said. "We're better off now, now that we're through it."