Smack / Aug 5, 2012 / 1:55 am

Team USA Escapes Against Lithuania; Paul Pierce Bitter Over Ray Allen’s Exit

Nike Basketball Innovation: LeBron James

Nike Basketball Innovation: LeBron James (photo. Nike)

When Linas Kleiza lined up a triple and splashed it to put Lithuania up two with under seven minutes to go against Team USA, it must’ve felt like all of Buckingham Palace was crashing down on their heads. Coming off a ridiculous thrashing of Nigeria, nobody figured the Yanks would have a game on their hands this early. Even on Twitter, more people were talking about Serena Williams‘ crip walk than a potential USA dud. But Lithuania, who do have Kleiza, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Toronto’s potential stud, Jonas Valanciunas, ALWAYS play Team USA tough. Since 2000, they’ve beaten us, taken us to a game-deciding shot, and have only been beat by double digits once. They’re solid. They just don’t have LeBron James, who was the difference in the 99-94 win. The King pushed Team USA to 74-2 all time in pool play with pro players (both losses came in Athens, by the way) as he spearheaded a 15-4 run in the fourth quarter with nine late points. He was also involved in the biggest exchange of the game: a pull-up triple and then a dunk off a steal that turned a one-point game into a comfortable six-point lead in the final four minutes. A few possessions later, he added running layups first with the left hand, and then the right. LeBron was so good late that he turned Kobe Bryant into a crunch time spectator and deep corner statue, and not a word was said about it … Normally, this is where you insert the cliche statement, “They’ll learn more from this than from 83-point blowouts.” Team USA might. Their opponents definitely will. Lithuania carved them up and grilled them all night on the pick-n-roll, whether they were finding mismatches on the screener or swinging the ball and getting wide open looks off the Americans help. Has anyone seen the Americans’ D? They didn’t need it while scoring 156, but they won’t win a gold if they give up that many easy layups again. In particular, we think Kobe left his stateside. He was getting the run by more often than a New York toll booth. Then, there was the free throwing shooting. Kevin Love even apologized on Twitter later because it was so bad. They missed 12 of 31 from the line, and while the total doesn’t sound so bad, almost all of those misses came during important second-half trips. A perfect way to sum up Team USA’s off game: in the third quarter, Carmelo Anthony – who was STILL super hot from the floor in the first quarter… at one point dating back a game or two, he had made 19 of his last 22 shots – stole a pass and came down on a 3-on-2. Then, he stopped, backed up, and chucked up a three … What happened to Craig Sager‘s wardrobe? Did NBC put the clamps on our favorite character from That ’70s Show? … Keep reading to hear what Jazz star is about to get his cash …

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