Team USA was favored by 34.5 points in their contest Saturday versus Lithuania in Pool A play in the 2012 London Olympics Men's Basketball tournament. Lithuania wasn't really concerned about the point spread, and they played USA tougher than anyone thus far. Yes, the USA won 99-94 in a hard-fought contest, but ultimately this probably helped both teams in the long run.
First a quote from ESPN's Jalen Rose on Lithuania's play offensively versus Team USA:
Well hopefully no one was betting on that game and betting that point spread because Lithuania wasn't paying attention to that at all. You have to give that team credit, they made free throws, they got to the paint, did a good job of playing pick and roll basketball, misdirection basketball, and confuse the USA defensively. -- Jalen Rose
Next, some analysis from ESPN's Marc Stein on USA's porous defense and lacking offense:
Getting a fight from their fearless foes is nothing new -- it's been happening at the Olympics since the Sydney Games in 2000 -- but this Lithuanian squad isn't the same force that won bronze medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000. Not without its most seasoned big man, Robertas Javtokas, missing the entire Olympics with a foot stress fracture.
Team USA nonetheless struggled mightily to cope with Lithuania's pick-and-roll attack and found itself leading by a mere four points at halftime, 55-51, after clanking its final seven 3s before the break.
Lithuania then had the temerity to take the lead early in the third quarter, 56-55, on a wide-open 3 from the wing from Sarunas Jasikevicius and again in the fourth quarter, 82-80, on a wing 3 from Linas Kleiza. Missing 12 of its 31 free throws and 23 of its 33 attempts from deep -- after draining 29 3s against Nigeria -- Team USA couldn't shake free until LeBron James' burst of nine points in the final four minutes of regulation.
Finally, some prognostication from yours truly.
If anything was to be gained from this, its that even on its worst day Team USA should be able to dig down deep and find an answer to win a game. That answer is LeBron James. It was reminiscent of LeBron's seven game tear in the conference finals and finals where Bron did what was necessary at all times. A block, a drive to the rim, a three-pointer, what was needed was delivered by The King.
Craig Sager and Deron Williams both called it out to LeBron that why didn't he do it earlier, a simple question with an answer no one has. Not even LeBron. Carmelo Anthony was performing well, but Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant struggled at times. On a team full of stars, its hard to let one dominate at all times.
Its Coach Mike Krzyzewski's decision to make, but maybe in the medal stages its time for LeBron to dominate the first three quarters, so that the fourth isn't such a compromising situation.