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USA Basketball Survives Scare From Lithuania

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LeBron James proved in this year’s NBA Finals that he was someone who could get the job done in crunch time. Nobody would have thought that he’d need to do it again in today’s game against Lithuania but, if he didn’t, the US wouldn’t have won in a 99-94 thriller.

Lithuania took advantage of poor defense from the United States all game long, shooting an unbelievable 58.5% from the field. Linas Kleiza and Darius Songaila, both with experience in the NBA, played well for Lithuania, scoring 25 and 11 points, respectively.

After a brilliant performance from three point range by the Americans in their last game against Nigeria, they continued to chuck them up from long range, which is what made this game as close as it was. They shot a miserable 10-33 from three point territory, with Kevin Durant (4-7) being the only player above 33% for the game.

It was this abysmal display from deep that allowed Lithuania to hang around, and even take a lead halfway through the fourth quarter.

At that point, James took over, scoring nine points in the game’s final period to deliver the United States to victory. He finished the game with 20 points, as did Carmelo Anthony, who is putting together a great tournament much to the chagrin of Knicks fans.

The closeness of the game has prompted Dream Team supporters to pipe up, saying things equivalent to “back in my day we walked 15 miles, uphill both ways, to watch the Olympics, and those athletes were better. Now get off my lawn.” What those people don’t realize is that the level of talent across international basketball is at an all time high.

Think about it: Russia defeated silver medal favorite Spain today despite trailing 20-2 early in the game. France only defeated Tunisia, the only team in the tournament without an NBA player, by four today. This isn’t 1992 anymore.

The huge takeaway from this game is simple: the United States needs to stop getting so trigger happy on the threes and get to the bucket more. But let’s not try to take a team down for winning a close game rather than blowing a team out by 20. Otherwise, let’s turn our aim to France. That game was way more embarrassing.

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