Found August 04, 2012 on Fox Sports:
When Linas Kleiza sized up Carmelo Anthony, his former teammate in Denver, fastened his grip on the ball and rose up to sink a 3-pointer, it was not necessary to hear the roar of the pro-Lithuanian crowd to know what was happening. All you had to do was look at the United States' bench. The cheering, towel-waving and joking around that had been ever present during the Olympics was gone. Instead, they sat as animated as a row of Easter Island statues. Nearly midway through the fourth quarter, and the United States -- the supposedly indomitable force of basketball -- was trailing. The Americans eventually steadied themselves, enough at least to breathe a sigh of relief, as LeBron James delivered the big plays and Chris Paul the subtle ones on the way to a 99-94 victory. But the United States did not rescue its aura of invincibility. That was left as shredded as the team's defense. "Of course it can be done," said Brazilian guard Marcelinho Huertas, who played later Saturday. "When the game is close, their shooting percentages are not as high, their rotation is not as deep. You have to make the game close." The United States, for all the talk of their lack of height and other vulnerabilities, had beaten France by 27, Tunisia by 47 and then Nigeria by 83 in a game that broke Olympic scoring records. But rather than be intimidated, Lithuania looked at the Americans' gambling defense and an offense that relied on individuality rather than ball movement and saw opportunities. "Every game has its own life," Lithuanian coach Kestutis Kemzura said. "We tried to take our chances and pick my poison on how we want to die. Back off some guys. Offensively, play simple and be aggressive. They are not afraid." Lithuania had a calming influence in Sarunas Jasikevicius, the point guard who starred at Maryland and missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have beaten the United States in the semifinals of the 2000 Olympics. They also had a matchup problem in Kleiza, the NBA veteran who had 25 points. They also received an inspiring 14 points from Martynas Pocius, who made Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski wonder why Pocius did not play like this in his four years at Duke. They spread the Americans out, looked for a favorable matchup -- Kobe Bryant on Pocius, for example -- and exploited it, setting off a chain of passes that inevitably led to an open shot. Lithuania shot 58 percent from the field. Lithuania also high-tailed it back on defense, so even though they turned the ball over 23 times, there were only a few occasions it allowed the Americans to unleash their devastating fast break. "We had 17 steals," Krzyzewski said. "That didn't translate to points like they should have." Lithuania trailed by 12 points in the first half, but never wilted. Each surge brought chants of Lie-tu-va (the Lithuanian pronunciation of their country) from the crowd, which included Prime Minister Andrius Kublius. Kleiza's 3-pointer over Anthony capped a 10-0 run to put Lithuania ahead, 82-80, with seven minutes left. Paul's 3-pointer put the United States ahead for good, 85-84, but his biggest contribution may have been when James missed a 3-pointer with the Americans ahead 92-88. Paul tipped the miss back out to Kevin Durant, who whipped a pass to Deron Williams, whose 3-pointer gave the United States some margin for error. "I just had a Russell Westbrook moment," said Paul, who had his best game of the tournament with seven points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. "I saw an opportunity, and luckily it came right off where I was." Down the stretch, the United States' game plan was essentially hand the ball to James and get out of the way. James scored nine of his 20 points in the final four minutes, driving into the paint with little obstruction. "It was time for LeBron to say, 'Look, I got it,'" Krzyzewski said. "People talk with their bodies and actions. For those people who say he hasn't produced at the end of ballgames, for us he's always produced at the end of ballgames. He was terrific. He really made the plays that needed to be made." Afterward, the Americans were in near universal agreement that they needed this type of taut, competitive game before the knockout phase begins after Monday's final group play game against Argentina. "Absolutely," said Carmelo Anthony. "We needed a test like this, for it to come down to the end and figure out a way how to win together." If the waltz through the first week had cost the United States its edge, so, too, may have Krzyzewski's decision to cancel practice on their last two off-days. He said Saturday that he was wary of wearing out his players, especially James, Durant, Westbrook and James Harden -- who all played through the NBA Finals. Of course, many players have spent their off-hours hitting other events around town. There certainly had been little action around the basketball venue the first week. But that changed Saturday. If a Lithuanian victory would have been a seismic event, Russia sent a temblor through it in rallying from an 18-point deficit to knock off Spain and remain unbeaten in the group opposite the United States. Pau Gasol had a chance to send the game into overtime, but missed the first of two free throws with 5.3 seconds left. Spain's loss means that it could be on a path to play the United States in the semifinals. But that presumes Spain beats Brazil on Monday -- and a United States victory over Argentina. If the Americans lose to Argentina, whom they beat by six points in a recent exhibition, it could scramble the brackets. Suddenly, a tournament that was beginning to appear as if it would be absent any drama gained some life. And the Americans showcased some vulnerability.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

U.S. basketball players play beach volleyball with Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor

On Thursday, 15 minutes before Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings hit the court, three members of the U.S. basketball team arrived and joined the ladies in a quick, impromptu game, according to NBC. Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and James Harden showed up just to watch the women play, but ended up on the warm-up courts outside the main volleyball arena learning just how tough...

Carmelo Anthony sets USA’s scoring record in impressive rout

Well, that was quite the game yesterday, wasn’t it? Team USA put on a shooting display that I, personally, have never seen been before and I have watched a lot of basketball. Starting with Carmelo Anthony and stopping with Anthony Davis, Team USA showed the world why they are the best. Old records were broken and new ones were set in Team USA’s 156-73 trouncing of Nigeria...

PHOTOS: Carmelo Anthony Attends U.S. Women’s Volleyball Game

Carmelo Anthony and teammates, Kevin Durant and James Harden, were spotted supporting the U.S. Women’s volleyball team at their match vs. Austria last night:

Carmelo Anthony never gets in on the fun

Poor Melo.

USA vs. Nigeria: Player Grades

Team USA set a new Olympic record today with their jaw-dropping 83-point victory over Nigeria. The 83-point victory was the highest scoring game in Olympic history, which is why it seems only fitting that Carmelo Anthony’s 37-points were the most scored in an Olympic game by an American: “It’s unexplainable, that’s the only thing I can say about it,” said Carmelo Anthony...

Carmelo Anthony Attempts to Author in Revisionist History, Insists 'Selfish' Tag Originated During Linsanity

Carmelo Anthony says nobody called him a selfish player until Jeremy Lin came along. The evidence proves otherwise, but as Anthony continually has shown, the facts never get in the way of a story that deflects blame from him. In speaking with reporters last weekend, Anthony once again seemed to assume that the world needed to take him at his word, as though no record exists of what...

Carmelo Addresses Selfish Label, Says It Arose During Linsanity

Carmelo Anthony addressed the widespread notion that he's a selfish player.

Tyson Chandler Discusses Lithuania, ‘Dream Team’ Debate & Carmelo Scrutiny (VIDEO)

Bleacher Report recently caught up with Tyson Chandler in London to discuss the tough game vs. Lithuania, the ’92 Dream Team debate, and Carmelo Anthony being heavily scrutinized: On ’92 Dream Team Debate: “The bad thing is, the game will never happen. The only difference in the 2 teams, is most of the players on this team are in their prime whereas the ’92 team they were...

Team USA smashes records in rout

The U.S. team had scored 100 points by the middle of the third quarter. It was that kind of night for the Americans. Two Olympic marks, several U.S. records fell. Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points, dropping 10 of 12 3-pointers, and the Americans rewrote the Olympic record book with a scintillating shooting performance and 156-73 win Thursday night, an epic blowout that seemed to...

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and more check out Beach Volleyball & track events

Team USA, the basketball version. Has been very visible in their support of fellow Olympians. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were spotted testing out the starting blocks at track & field. James and KD were joined by Carmelo Anthony at the beach volleyball event to cheer on the duo of Kerri [...]

Damn Right Team USA does not mind Stomping some Nigers

Killer shooting by America. Black on Black crime, featuring a special appearance by (Kevin) Love. 156 points in 40 minutes. See what happens when Coach K finally decides to let his way-more-talented players play their own game rather than him lowly toned telling them to take charges and pass the ball around apply pressure. Carmelo Anthony just set the record straight that...

United States Basketball Sets Olympic Records

‎LeBron James and Team USA cruised to an EIGHTY-THREE-POINT victory over Nigeria on Thursday night. Their 156 points is an Olympic Record along with the 29 three-pointers! It looks like the USA came to dominate.  Carmelo Anthony had a team high of 37 points, followed by Russel Westbrook with 21.
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.