Desperate Lithuania Up Next For U.S.

LONDON – Unlike many of the other teams in this competition, certain members of the Lithuanian contingent here at the Olympics have tangible knowledge of what it feels like to take a bite out of the machine that is the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.

Before the U.S. program was back to its current and dominant state, basketball-mad Lithuania shocked the basketball world with a during the 2004 Olympics, a loss the U.S. made up for in the bronze medal game.

Veteran Lithuanian guard Sarunas Jasikevicius led the charge in that 2004 upset and is still on the roster, along with fellow former NBA player Darius Songaila. But times have changed a bit since then for both sides.

The U.S. is back to its gold medal ways, courtesy of the complete program makeover engineered by USA Basketball chairman and managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski. The U.S. is chasing a second straight gold medal and has won their three games here by a jaw-dropping average of 52.3 points, a figure boosted significantly by Thursday night’s record-setting 83-point drubbing of Nigeria.

Lithuania is still one of the world’s most formidable outfits, the mere mention of the three-time Olympic bronze medalists prompts an immediate demeanor shift for Krzyzewski. But they are not among the favorites in this tournament, relying as much or more on younger stars like Linas Kleiza and prized Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas to carry the team than they do some of their stars from previous teams.

Saturday’s Group A game against the U.S. (9:30 a.m. ET, NBC) could serve as a statement game  for Lithuania . Losses to Argentina and France, sandwiching a win over Nigeria, leaves Lithuania desperate for a chance to prove they belong in the first of their final two games in group play. (A win over Tunisia Monday moves them into the quarterfinals.)

And with the  history between the two teams — the U.S. is 5-1 against Lithuania in the Olympics and have won by a margin of 14.7 points, their last meeting the aforementioned bronze medal game in 2004 the U.S barely won 104-96 — they already have the attention of the tourney favorites.

“They run a very good continuity offense,” Krzyzewski said. “We’ve played them quite a bit in the Olympics and World Championships. They really play all 12 of their players and we just want to continue to play well, if we play well we’ll have a good shot at winning. But Lithuania plays with great spirit. They have veterans and they’ve been in this before. Kleiza is one of the better players internationally and it revolves around him, so we’re going to have to do a very good job on him.”

Lithuania will need an answer of their own for the 12-man barrage the U.S. has been sending at teams. Carmelo Anthony led the way with a record-setting 37 points, and 10 made 3-pointers in a win over Nigeria Thursday. And he’s the sixth man on this U.S. Team.

Anthony and LeBron James were rookies in the USA Basketball program in 2004, still a bit wide-eyed and probably a bit unsure of themselves during those matchups against Lithuania.

They’re all grown up now and working alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, a totally different nucleus than that the group the U.S. sent into that competition in Athens. No one talks about 2004 more than Anthony, who said his memories of that painful experience will not go away without another gold medal.

He did so after a 27-point beating of France last Sunday.

“All the time,” he said of his constant reminders to the other players on this team about the pitfalls of showing up for any opponent unprepared for the challenge. “We chat about it all the time, especially me and LeBron. We tell these other guys what it was like and the truth about it being the lowest feeling you could ever have. That’s our responsibility, to make sure they understand how bad it was and why it can’t happen again.”

After the win over Nigeria Anthony spoke of this current team’s desire to play for each other, for their country and for this moment and not necessarily the past … namely the comparisons to the original Dream Team from the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. That doesn’t mean he won’t take the floor with history on his mind.

It’ll just be more recent history.

And a an old foe, one of the few who know the feeling of stunning the U.S. on the big stage, standing in the way.

17 Comments

  1. Anthony says:

    After watching the game USA vs Lithuania I have to say that USA was looking very desperate at one time. Kobe and Durant missed such an easy three pointers. oh my…

    • B-Ball4Life says:

      Year but Lebron took over like Melo did and like every other Player in this Team could do. They love to compete and they will not fail.

  2. lets go says:

    lithuania almost beat usa

  3. Robert - Basketball Fan says:

    While all of the concerns here about the slow starts, the inconsistancy of the jump shots and team being too small, I understand share your concerns real talk. However after watching this 2012 US team in all 3 games I believe that the US team will over come all of their flaws and ultimately win the Gold Medal. Mostly due to defensive pressure, team speed and an abundance of talented players that can play multiple positions. They know… that their style of play wear teams down…period. This team enjoys getting stronger as teams weaken in the latter stages of the game. The killer is that the second team
    (Players 6-10) is no joke. Which keeps the starters fresh at all times. Which always presents the posiiblitiy of starters returning to the game and finishing strong. We can go on and on about how the powerful bench of the US team at times seem to cover flaws and begins to actually hurt opponents midgame. Remember Anthony is 6th man now. It would be pretty tough to name any 6th man that came off the bench played less than 15 minutes and scored 37 points. And he could have easily scored many more if the coach had left him in. This team knows that it can score points pretty much all game. Play strong, superior defense and they pretty much control the game no question. If they are hitting 3s the game is pretty much over early. If they are not hitting 3s the knockout punch comes later.

  4. Law064 says:

    Yes I can’t say we can’t worry about a team that scored 156 points but it was Nigeria. I think even against tougher opponents the US has the edge. I think Lebron and Melo will take this game personal because of that 04 upset. I have no doubt that US will win this game but the margin will not be 83 maybe 20-30. If the shots are not falling like last game they will just have to adjust. This team is very strong and I’m sure they sent shivers though these other teams. Let’s go US bring home the gold. USA USA USA in my Homer Simpson voice!!!!!

    • Bobo says:

      U are conserned about Lithuania who lost to Nigeria in the Olympics qualification tournament with 6 points?

  5. LTU says:

    LITHUANIA!!!!!!!!!

  6. B- Ball4Life says:

    You are absolutely right.I don’t think that anyone could really beat this Team. Ok,Spain,Argentina,France,Russia and Lithuania are very good teams no doubt but they need to have a perfect game while the U.S. Team has to have a very bad game.
    I mean, c’mon you can’t be serious on wondering if someone’s going to take over when they need it most!!!!
    They are all the go to guys and the best players on their Teams. Lebron and Kobe would be enough I guess, as far as taking responsibility is concerned. And there are still KD, Melo, CP3, D-Will even K-Love,Westbrook,Harden are clutch players.

  7. Kestas says:

    zgillet, you see the positive result, but fail to notice the other side of things. This US team scored 80 gaints Brasil (July 16th) and 86 against Argentina (July 22nd). Anyways, they’re probably going to win all of the remaining matches anyways. Regarding Lithuania, we too have a very weak front line – our main center Javtokas got injured right before the games and was replaced by completely inexperienced Kavaliauskas who never played for the NT before. Valanciunas has not been good so far, he’s very young. Players like Lavrinovic twins have not been in the training camp this year, Petravicius is injured, so we basically have the worst front line, like, ever. The key will be USA defense. LTU plays very risky basketball sometimes and you know what a turnover means against the US team….

  8. MVP0707 says:

    I want to make my point on the 1992 dream team vs 2012 olympic team discussion.

    its should be not about who could win a game (cause in one game everthing can happen, like melo scoring 37 in 14 min) but about which team is actually better player by player.

    and theres NO WAY this current team can match all the legends on the 1992 team !

    But the 92 team was very lucky. they basicly had ALL the stars from the 80s and early 90s (except for kareem). So if you could take all the players from the 00 decade and sum them up on one team now i think they would actually be better

    PG: Kidd (2005), Nash (2005), Paul (now)

    SG: Kobe (2006), Pierce (2006), Allen or TMac (2004)

    SF: Lebron (now), KD (now), Melo (now)

    PF: Duncan (2005), KG (2005)

    C: Shaq (2004)

    For the 92 dream team it was just like that, picking the best players from the last decade, so they were just a bit more LUCKY than we are today.. ;) and thats why they were called the DREAM team because it was a dream come true, the best players of a decade in one team.
    with all the youngstars and role players (chandler, iggy) its just not like that this time !

  9. Angelo says:

    Lol, Didn’t Sekou say that Nigeria was going to be a real test and more difficult than Tunisia? Now its “Unlike Nigeria, Team USA should get a test from desperate Lithuania”.

  10. Vitto says:

    A little correction. Lithuania is not desperate and DOES NOT HAVE to win this game. All it has to do to get to quarter-finals, is to beat Tunisia on Monday, which they most certainly will. In fact, probably, even if the lose to Tunisia by a small margin, they will still finish fourth in the group; and ironically the same would happen even if Lithuania beat both the US and Tunisia – still fourth place in the group. So this will only be practice, for both teams, I guess.

  11. zgillet says:

    I wouldn’t exactly worry about a team that scores 156 points. They won’t be tested by anyone.

  12. Trem P says:

    @Amitpal did you just call Kobe Bryant unselfish in the clutch? Have you watched a Lakers game the past 14 years in the clutch my friend. (im aware Kobe’s been in the league 16 yrs, i mean since hes been the best guard on the team)

  13. Amitpal says:

    As great as this team is I do worry about them a little. They r a complete jump shooting team and what going to happen when those jumpers aren’t falling. As great of jumpshooters they have and they have a lot I think there might be a game when those won’t fall and they don’t have a big post up players, I think guys like melo, kd, lebron, Kobe are to unselfish and might not take over a game when one of them needs to. I don’t since brazil or was it Argentina or who ever it was had that close preseason game I just feel there might be a game when those jumpers wont fall and the superstar might not take over the game like they r able to in the NBA (. Or won’t take over like they r capable of doing like they do in the NBA.)

    • FOCUSED says:

      Partially agreed, I’m concerned with their consistency especially in the first quarter slow starts. They need to stay focused and hungry, leave nothing on the table…..

    • KJAMES says:

      not to worry lebron king james will take over if necessary..3 time mvp and finals mvp and finals champ…just like the usa brazil win last preaseason game he did take over with 30 points coz jumpers didnt falling..have u watch that? h c an and will and must IF NECESSARY..esp. if jumpers arent falling..and with that muscle and speed and jump and body solidity…he will run on anyone like a freight train on the loose and if he is tripled or doubled..expect melo,kobe or kd or even chandler to make cuts to the rim..amazing what the king can do..hehehehe…usa for gold 99.9% .1% i reserve for any injuries t0 the impt. players….usa 2nd gold medal since 2004….go lebron king james…the best basketball player on the planet today……yeahehehehehehe!!!!!!