U.S. barely beats Lithuania, 99-94, in men’s basketball
LONDON -- The U.S. never longed so much for Nigeria.
The men’s basketball team came closer to crashing than creating more Olympic records, finally pushing past Lithuania for a 99-94 victory in a preliminary game Saturday at Olympic Park basketball arena.
LeBron James had 20 points and took over down the stretch for the U.S., which looked completely unlike the group that set a slew of Olympic and team records in a 156-73 victory Thursday over Nigeria.
The U.S. wasn’t nearly as dependable from three-point range Saturday, making 10 of 33 shots (30%) after a sublime 63% behind the arc two days earlier.
The U.S. also didn’t share as much as it did in previous games, totaling a puny 13 assists while Lithuania had 21.
There was actually tension in the arena for the first time in a U.S. game, with fans chanting, “USA! USA!” as their team tried to rid itself of Lithuania.
Lithuania even held an 82-80 lead after Linas Kleiza’s three-pointer with seven minutes left to play.
James was the go-to guy in the end, though. He had nine points in the last 3:58, including a three-pointer, dunk and two successful drives.
Carmelo Anthony had 20 points for the U.S.
Kleiza, a forward for the Toronto Raptors, had 25 points for Lithuania, which entered with a 1-2 record.
In other surprising news, Spain continued to falter badly, losing to Russia earlier Saturday, 77-74. The team expected to challenge U.S. for a gold medal barely beat Great Britain on Thursday, sneaking away with a one-point victory.
Spain lost to Russia in part because Pau Gasol missed the first of two free-throw attempts that would have tied the score with 5.2 seconds to play.
“We should be at a better place right now,” Gasol said. “It’s very inconsistent at this point…. We are capable of playing very average for the potential of the team we have.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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