Needing a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Lithuania 99-94 on Saturday at the 2012 Olympics, Team USA showed that they are not invincible, and they will be better because of it.
While this message of vulnerability will undoubtedly help give future opponents some confidence, that will have a far lesser impact than the renewed focus and drive this will give the Americans.
This is a team that had to have rolled into this group-play match feeling that all they had to do was hoist up some jump shots and they would roll. And who could blame them? It was their last time out on the floor against Nigeria where they were drilling everything they threw up on their way to a record-breaking 156-73 victory.
But it was a far different story on Saturday.
As hot as the Americans were against Nigeria, they were equally cold in this game. They were just 19-of-31 from the free-throw line and 10-of-33 from beyond the arc.
It would have been foolish to expect Team USA to keep drilling shots like they did against Nigeria. That is just not the nature of sports. Hot streaks come and go, and that is part of the valuable lesson to be learned from this game.
With still one more group-play contest, there is enough basketball left where the U.S. is bound to struggle from the outside in at least one game. This won't doom the Americans, it just means they better focus on other aspects of their play—and that needs to start with defense.
The defense must remain consistent. It not only keeps the other team off the scoreboard, it also leads to easy buckets that will fall no matter how hot or cold a team is.
This is a talented defensive team. But the 94 points put up by Lithuania is 21 more than the Americans had allowed in their previous three contests in these Olympics. Lithuania did much of this damage on the pick-and-roll, as the U.S. showed poor discipline and reaction.
This is the exact kind of attention to detail that can slip away due to a rush of overconfidence. It is probably safe to assume that coach Mike Krzyzewski will point this out to them—and what a perfect time for this talented group to get a refresher on attention to detail.
This team is not going to be happy with close wins, and it will put a renewed focus on their defense to avoid them.