USA vs. Lithuania: Players Who Must Rebound from Mediocre U.S. Showing

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 04:  Deron Williams of the United States jumps with the ball past Antanas Kavaliauskas (L) and  Linas Kleiza (2nd R) of Lithuania during the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match between Lithuania and the United States on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Basketball Arena on August 4, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Ralston - IOPP Pool /Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

As the Olympic basketball tournament moves toward the end of group play and on to the quarterfinals, Team USA needs to have players step up after a mediocre performance against Lithuania.

Anytime a team draws comparisons to the 1992 "Dream Team," expectations are high, and the U.S. can't afford to have close calls from here on out if it wants to be considered one of the greatest teams of all time.

The Lithuanians are ranked fifth in the world, but they will by no means be the best team that the U.S. faces by the time the Olympic tournament ends.

If the U.S. is going to be as dominant as it can be, it will take a great effort from everyone. These are the players that will need to step up to ensure that the U.S. runs through the rest of the competition.

Kobe Bryant

Team USA's mediocre performance boiled down to stretches of stagnant offense and a defense that allowed far too much penetration and scoring on the inside. 

Kobe may not have much to do with the interior defense, but as the team's elder statesman he needs to be the one to rally the troops and regain the team's focus when they are playing down to their competition.

Kobe's presence was almost nonexistent throughout the game against the Lithuanians. 

In 20 minutes of playing time, Kobe only scored six points and shot 14 percent from the field. For one of the elite scorers in the game, that's just not efficient and he will need to perform better for the U.S. to reach its potential.

Kevin Love

It's been well-publicized that the U.S.'s only weakness is the interior. After losing Dwight Howard to injury, Tyson Chandler is the only true defensive stalwart left on the roster.

With inexperienced Anthony Davis as the only other post player on the roster, Kevin Love is a pivotal player for the U.S. frontcourt. He will need to play like a superstar from this point forward. Love didn't see a whole lot of minutes in the Lithuania game, but in the time he did see, his play was inconsistent.

Love gathered eight rebounds to lead the team, which was a nice contribution, but his defense against Linas Kleiza wasn't stellar (Kleiza scored 25 points) and his free-throw shooting (3-of-8 from the line) was a liability. 

With the big frontcourts of Brazil and Spain looming, Love needs to step up his game heading into the quarterfinals.

Deron Williams

For all the talk of Williams being one of the game's elite point guards, there seems to be a drop-off when he comes into the game to replace Chris Paul.

With scorers like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant on the wing, Williams should be easily collecting assists. However, against Lithuania that wasn't the case. In 23 minutes on the floor, Williams only notched two assists.

To make matters worse, Williams struggled to score. His 4-of-12 performance from the field brought down the efficiency of the U.S. offense. As the point guard, he can't allow that to happen.

With Argentina next up on the schedule, these players will need to step up if they want to cruise to gold like the Dream Team did in 1992.