A five-point win may seem like a bad omen for Team USA men's basketball now, but the close call will be great for the squad as it heads into the medal rounds.
The U.S. barley scrapped by a resilient Lithuanian squad on Sunday, mounting a late fourth-quarter comeback to secure the 99-94 victory.
The outcome was almost shocking, considering Team USA's incredible 83-point decimation of Nigeria on Thursday.
What a difference two days can make, huh?
One day the U.S. sets an Olympic record for margin of victory and points scored. Then, only two days later, it almost suffers an unthinkably embarrassing defeat.
However, this nearly devastating loss will turn out to be exactly the eye-opener Team USA needed.
After an 83-point win, the U.S. had to be feeling invincible, even though that is far from the truth.
In an exhibition match before London 2012, Team USA struggled to defeat Argentina, and the U.S. men haven't been perfect at the Olympics, either. France stuck with them for most of their opening game, and even lowly Tunisia played them close in the first half.
The smashing of Nigeria took some took the heat off the squad, but it made the team complaisant, something that can't happen in the medal rounds. If the U.S. were to put up the kind of performance it did today against Spain or Argentina during an elimination game, Team USA would be heading home.
Done are the days when the U.S. could just walk in and win Harlem Globetrotter-style; the other countries are too good to play the part of the Washington Generals any longer
This means that Team USA will have to bring its “A” game every night.
The U.S. men may have the most talent out of anyone, but they still have weaknesses that can be exposed. Team USA lacks size on the inside, and they’re also a poor three-point shooting team.
Things that Lithuania took advantage of.
If the U.S. comes out aggressive and attacks from the get go, these flaws won't turn into major issues.
However, when Team USA settles for long jumpers, as they did Sunday, it causes problems.
This five-point test against the Lithuanians may seem like a black cloud over Team USA's medal chances, but it will be the shock the team needs to motivate itself.
Expect the U.S. men to attack from here on out, with this close call fueling them all the way to gold.
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