Five Reactions to Team USA's Victory over Lithuania
Team USA completed its second exhibition game on Saturday, defeating the Lithuanian national squad 77-61.
Lithuania hung with Team USA for most of the game and even had a one point halftime lead. But Lithuania's shortage of strong ball handlers allowed Team USA to showcase their athleticism in the fourth quarter and blow the game open.
Kevin Durant led the Americans with 15 points and Toronto Raptors F Linas Kleiza scored 12 for Lithuania.
The U.S. plays defending world champion Spain on Sunday in another tune up match before the tournament begins next week.
Here are five things that stood out about today's game and what they mean for Team USA going forward.
1. Suspect Guard Play
As expected, Team USA's starting lineup featured Rajon Rondo at point guard and Chauncey Billups at shooting guard.
The dynamic duo was anything but, however, failing to take advantage of Lithuania's lack of strong ball handlers.
Their erratic play was the primary reason the U.S. played one of the worst quarters in the history of the team, trailing 15-7 after the first quarter. Team USA committed six turnovers in the quarter and shot poorly from the field, largely because the guards couldn't maintain consistent ball movement and allow their teammates to get good looks.
For the game the duo combined for only nine points on 3 of 9 shooting and eight turnovers with only one assist. Not good enough.
Derrick Rose was a strong player off the bench, leading Team USA with three assists. He had to leave the game early, though, after getting poked in the eye.
Reserve guards Russell Westbrook (12 points) and Eric Gordon (9 points) both played well in helping revive the offense later in the game. But the U.S. will need better production out of their starters if they want to hang with the big dogs (Spain).
2. Too Many Turnovers
Led by Rondo and Billups (four turnovers each), Team USA committed a woeful 19 turnovers for the game while only recording 11 assists.
Lithuania was able to score 23 points off those turnovers, a big reason why they hung in the game for so long.
Nobody on the team seemed to value the ball as players were more concerned with making highlight reel plays than executing a smart offense.
This will have to change. Stronger opponents will make the U.S. pay for being sloppy. With some of the top ball handlers in the world on the roster, there's no reason Team USA can't tighten up and make better decisions.
3. Poor Shooting
The Americans shot 27 of 67 for the game, good for a 40.3 shooting percentage. From beyond the arc they hit 7 of 19 shots for a 36.8 shooting percentage.
They also somehow managed to miss a third of their free throws. Even Chauncey Billups, one of the NBA's best free throw shooters, could only hit 1 of 4 shots from the line. How does that happen?
This team's success is going to be dependent on how well they shoot from the floor, since they don't have the size to post up other teams. They might get away with missing that many shots against Lithuania, but against elite teams 77 total points is not going to get it done.
Durant, the team's leading scorer with 15 points, shot only 4 of 14. They need him to be better.
Of all the sharpshooters on the roster only Rudy Gay (6 for 12, 14 points) and Russell Westbrook (4 for 5, 12 points) had good shooting nights.
4. Lack of Size
We all knew Team USA was going to go small for this tournament. But against Lithuania we saw just how undersized they were.
The Americans actually outrebounded Lithuania 40-33, but that's mainly because Lithuania missed so many more shots. The real telling statistic is what happened inside the paint when the Lithuanians got the ball.
Lithuania did most of their damage inside the post, scoring 40 points inside the paint to only 30 for the U.S. Leading the way was C Robertas Javtokas, who grabbed six boards and scored 10 points with a litany impressive post moves.
None of the American big men had strong games. Lamar Odom led all players with seven rebounds, but he could only score two points. Tyson Chandler grabbed five rebounds but didn't even bother taking a shot.
It will be interesting to see how they deal with Spain's talented front court, which includes Memphis Grizzles C Marc Gasol.
5. The Final Cut
It was presumed that the final cut would come down to one of Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love.
Westbrook was the logical choice because he was the third string point guard on the roster and couldn't contribute as much as Gordon (a combo guard) or Love (a skilled forward). But after a strong performance against Lithuania, Coach K is going to have a difficult time letting him go.
Westbrook and Gordon helped spark Team USA in the third quarter, leading the team on 17-0 run that sealed the game. Westbrook hit both of his three-point shots while Gordon contributed three steals.
Love, on the other hand, saw limited action in playing only three minutes on Saturday. A lack of depth at the forward spot would seem to favor Love. Odds aren't looking good for the Minnesota Timberwolve right now.
Also joining the conversation for the final cut was Stephen Curry, who suffered an ankle injury earlier in the week and missed two practices. Curry also only played three minutes, but hit all of his shots in tallying five points.
With the rest of the team already struggling from the floor, it's difficult to see Team USA's best shooter being cut from the roster. But Curry will have to get healthy if he wants to play.