Team USA is coming off of the most dominating Olympic basketball performance in history, with a 156-73 victory over Nigeria that may have been the single greatest team basketball performance of all time. Now they head into a Saturday matchup with Lithuania loaded with confidence after proving all of their doubters wrong.
Lithuania is coming into the game with at least a measure of desperation. After losing to France they are 1-2 and in danger of getting eliminated. This game is a must-win for them.
While they realistically don't have much of a chance, their roster does present some difficulties for Team USA.
Those difficulties start with star big man Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas has struggled so far in the Olympics, but scouts have raved about him since he was selected No. 5 overall in the 2011 draft by the Toronto Raptors, and Team USA's small-ball lineup might be exactly what he needs to turn things around.
Linas Kleiza, another Toronto Raptor (I knew Canada was out to get us), has been Lithuania's best player so far in the Olympics. He is a deadly three-point shooter, and if he can space the floor it would open up space down low for Valanciunas.
It all comes down to point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius for Lithuania, though. He has to be both a playmaker and penetrator if they want to have any chance of winning. He'll have to make things easier for Kleiza and Valanciunas.
The plan to stop those three would seem to be pretty simple on paper: Stick LeBron James on Kleiza, Kobe Bryant on Jasikevicius and clog the paint for Valanciunas with Anthony Davis and Tyson Chandler.
It may not be so easy, though. The small-ball lineup Team USA uses might force LeBron James to hang around the paint more than he'd like, and it will also keep Anthony Davis off of the floor for most of the game.
Coach K should think about using a more traditional lineup in this game to ensure Valanciunas can't go off. Move LeBron James to his natural small-forward position and stick Anthony Davis in at power forward, and the size problem suddenly becomes a strength.
Luckily for the Americans, small ball has worked so well for them that they may not need to worry about Valanciunas. They might be able to just say "We're gonna score 150 points; we dare you to try and keep up."
Ultimately it'll be Lithuania trying to adjust to the Americans. Team USA is so absurdly loaded with talent that losing to a team so devoid of NBA-caliber players is simply an impossibility. My prediction: Team USA 119, Lithuania 81.