All of a sudden it got hard. After winning the first three games by an average of 52.3 point, the 2012 version of the Dream Team faced a real battle with Lithuania, never an easy outing, beating the European 99-94, with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony each scoring 20 points to give Team USA their fourth win of the Olympic games.
Who gave them trouble? Linas Kleiza of the Toronto Raptors, who averaged 9.7 points last season in Canada, was extremely troubling with 25 points. Sarunas Jasikevicius, former NBA player and someone who always makes it hard for the Americans had six assists and added 8 points, while Martynas Pocius added 14 points. It might have been a very good shooting game from the Lithuanians, simply catching fire, or maybe it was lazy defending by the Americans.
I’m inclined to agree with the latter. After three very easy games and especially the ridiculous 83 point win against Nigeria, complacency took over. Kobe Bryant took too many shots he shouldn’t (1-7), Tyson Chandler was ineffectual on both sides of the ball, getting only 8 minutes but the small ball that both teams play suited Lithuania very well, keeping up with the pace of the American team. LeBron James had to play 35 minutes this time. Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were again very good off the bench, while Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant had a hard time running the game from the back court.
Too many three pointers, and laziness all over. Lithuania don’t have a deep enough and big enough (size) squad to bother the United States in the paint, but when the legs don’t move on defense and the mind doesn’t work on offense, with too many players forgetting the pass button and simply taking outside shots because it’s easier and demands less works, good teams will take advantage of that. Teams like Argentina, and Lithuania, even Russia, not to mention Spain, who aren’t at their best in these Olympic games.
Panic button time? Of course not, although some would gladly push it for them. It makes for better news. The team’s flaws weren’t exposed. Just the humanity of its players, who couldn’t help themselves but take it a bit easier after three very easy wins. They still had enough to win the game before it was too late. When you have a privilege of playing Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the same lineup, it’s no surprise that even in bad games, you’ll prevail thanks to individual talent alone.