The phrase "cutting it close" doesn't even begin to describe what nearly was in Team USA's narrow 99-94 win over Lithuania. Down as late as four minutes into the fourth quarter, the Americans needed a furious late-minute rally to avoid an upset and maintain their standard as the best basketball team in the world.
Led by Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James (20 points each) and Chris Paul (7 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists), they turned what was nearly a complete disaster into merely a blip on the radar.
Linas Kleiza led the way for Lithuania, scoring 25 points as he continues to prove himself on the international stage.
While the game ended in the same result—an American victory—the style and journey was completely different then the team's first three blowouts of the tournament. Lithuania proved that grit and determination can be enough to overcome a talent disparity even in the loss. They showed the US that pulling up for lazy shots and not hustling for loose balls will take its toll on even the best of rosters.
Obviously, lessons can always be learned, but in this case Coach K and his team better take a hard look and themselves and ask, "Is that we want the world to see?" There are plenty of things to take away from a game like this, and here are five that could play an important role in Team USA's success going forward.