Team USA – One More for the Gold Medal

USA beat Lithuania

Just like all the other opponents Team USA has gone through in the 2014 Basketball World Cup, Lithuania managed to pose a problem for a very short time. They might have had size to match and were chippier and dirtier than other teams, but the end result was the same: 96-68, with the backcourt doing most of the job, led by Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Klay Thompson.

Lithuania had Jonas Valanciuns and the Lavrinovic brothers to throw at Faried, Davis and Cousins. So maybe the big men of the United States didn’t find it easy to score in the paint, as the trio finished with a combined 24 points on 50% from the field, but it didn’t stop them from dominating the boards with 18 offensive rebounds and holding Lithuania to only 30.4% from the field, managing to stay close thanks to going 42 times to the line.

So even if Lithuania made the semifinal a bit different by matching size in the paint, there was no chance for them to compete with the outside quality. They tried making up for it by launching relentlessly from beyond the arc, but that resulted in a 2-of-18 performance. Stephen Curry and Derrick Rose didn’t really have a very good game, but Kyrie Irving once again proved he’s the best point guard in this tournament, getting plenty of help from Klay Thompson and James Harden.

Irving finished with 18 points on 8-of-15 from the field, adding 4 assists. Thompson, who came off the bench, scored 16 points and finished with the highest efficiency rating on the team with a +19. James Harden had the best +/- out of everyone, scoring 16 points despite not finding the usual ease of going to the line. He also added some very good defense, although he also had one of his famous lapses that are always hard to explain.

Lithuania stayed in the game through the first half, but that’s been the story this tournament. At some point, the defense, athleticism, size, physicality and speed of the American team becomes too much on both ends of the floor for their opponents. In the third quarter the USA ran away with the game, outscoring Lithuania 33-14. They “won” all four quarters, even the close ones, winning by “only” 28 points.

The bad? Derrick Rose had another weak game in which his shot looked rusty and shaky, hitting just one of his eight field goal attempts. The offense early on continues to be slow and shots don’t drop. But it doesn’t matter. The defense can always make up for it, the rebounding makes up for it and at some point, which will probably happen against France or Serbia in the final, the overwhelming superiority in about every factor makes too much of a difference.

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