Lithuania has become the latest team in a long succession of otherwise very solid teams in this tourney to be destroyed by the monsters from America.
They fell to the soon-to-be gold medalists 96:68.
Lithuania started out the game strong, attacking the rim and getting Curry and Harden into foul trouble. The lead changed back and forth early on and Lithuania was getting to the line and making their foul shots.
Team USA were settling for jump shots and not making them. The pace of the game early on favored Lithuania.
When it’s a slow paced game with lots of stoppage due to foul shots, that favors Lithuania with their gritty and tough style of play. You can’t count on team USA to do what you want them to forever though.
Team USA, led by Klay Thompson and his 14 first half points, ended up coming right back. A few three-pointers from him and the score was 43:35 at halftime. But Lithuania showed a lot of heart to close the half and there was hope going into intermission.
In the locker room, coach K for team USA must have told his players that their team identity lies in up-tempo, running-and-gunning basketball. They made the adjustment and went on a 10-0 blitzkrieg of a run to start the second half.
Now it was Lithuania settling for low-percentage jump shots. They couldn’t make a three to save their life today though, going a pitiful 2/17 from beyond the arc. The exact opposite of their lights-out shooting performance against Turkey in the quarterfinal. You live by the three and die by it. Today LT died by it. After a 31:16 third quarter, LT was in a big hole for the final act.
Team USA keep their foot on the gas through the fourth and Lithuania still couldn’t make a shot even though they tried to finish strong and had a few solid plays. It seems as though against this USA mega-team, margin of loss is the way other teams grade their performance when playing them.
The final score ended 96:68 in favor of the future-champions of the tournament.
There weren’t many bright spots for team Lithuania today except for Mindauguas Kuzminskas. Coming into the semi-finals he had been played by coach Kazlauskas a total of 45 minutes with only 12 points to show for it. Today he exploded for 15 points and 9 rebounds in 27 minutes begging the question of coach Kazlauskas, “where you been keeping him?!”
Jonas Valančiūnas had 15 points and 7 rebounds, but it was mostly on knocking down free-throws after tangling inside with the physical Demarcus Cousins.
Martynas Pocius impressed his former coach from Duke with a solid 10-point performance himself.
In the final analysis, Lithuania gets what it always gets when they play USA in the semi-finals;a good work-out in preparation for the bronze-medal game.
There would have been riots in the streets of Vilnius had Lithuania actually won, but team USA is just too good.
Period. It always helps playing the best team on the planet before a big game, and now the stars are aligned for them to take their best shot at the bronze versus either Serbia or France.
Both of these potential opponents have past history with Lithuania.
Serbia fell to Lithuania in the World Cup 2010 in Turkey when LT picked up the bronze and France beat Lithuania last year in the Eurobasket finals.
It would probably be better to play France, because that defeat last year is still fresh in the minds of Lithuania’s players and they’re undoubtedly looking for payback . The French did knock off Spain which was largely a fluke, with Spain missing almost every three-pointer they attempted in that game.
France prior to that big win had limped into the round of 16 by finishing 4th place in group A without their leader, Tony Parker.
Again, whatever happens happens. Lithuania shouldn’t even be here right now without their key players yet here they are.
The stars are aligned and they got their shot at the bronze , let’s see if they take it and make three million screaming fans proud.