ISTANBUL – I was writing my USA-Russia analysis during the first half of this game. And by the time I looked up, it was over.
Lithuania slowed down the Luis Scola express and caught fire offensively. They led by as many as 32 points before settling with a 104-85 victory over Argentina. Lithuania remains undefeated and advances to face the United States in the semifinals on Saturday, while Argentina will face Russia in the consolation round on Friday.
Lithuania had much more balance than they did on Tuesday, when Linas Kleiza dropped 30 points on China. Kleiza finished with 17 points on Saturday, one of seven Lithuanians in double-figures.
And in the first 20 minutes of this game, they simply couldn’t miss. Lithuania shot 19-for-32 from the field and 8-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half. They actually made their first eight attempts from downtown before Kleiza missed a pair to end the half.
Argentina, a much older team than their opponent, may have run out of gas after a thrilling win over Brazil just two nights earlier. They missed all nine of their attempts from 3-point range in the first half and finished 4-for-21 from beyond the arc.
Here’s the schedule for Saturday, with both games on ESPN Classic…
USA vs. Lithuania — 7 p.m. local, noon ET
Serbia vs. Turkey — 9:30 p.m. local, 2:30 p.m. ET
I’ll have a preview of the USA-Lithuania game on Friday. It’s a rematch of an exhibition game that the U.S. won 77-61 on Aug. 21. Lithuania beat the Americans up a little bit in that one, holding them to just seven points in the first quarter and taking a one-point lead into halftime.
The U.S. pulled away in the second half, but Lithuania looks like a much stronger team three weeks later. Rebounding will be a critical concern once again, as Lithuania has been the second best rebounding team in the tournament thus far.