USA Beats Lithuania in exhibition game
The USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team put the hammer down early in Sunday afternoon's game at the World Basketball Challenge in Seoul, Korea, and the result was an impressive 111-88 dismantling of Lithuania in a game that was not as close as the final score. Led by Carmelo Anthony's (Denver Nuggets) 19 points and 14 more from Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), the win was the USA's fourth in as many outings. Box score in new window.
The USA has now posted winning margins of 45 points (over Puerto Rico), 46 (over China), four (over Brazil) and now 23, for an average margin of victory of 29.5 points a game.
With both teams using the exhibition contest as a warm-up for the Aug. 19-Sept. 3 FIBA World Championship in Japan, the game bore no resemblance to the two close affairs that resulted when the teams meet in the 2004 Athens Olympics. In Greece, Lithuania defeated the U.S. Olympic squad 94-90 in preliminary play, but it was the U.S. who came out on top 104-96 in the bronze medal game.
"I thought we played very good defensively," stated USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Lithuania is a strong team and I thought we for the most part, took them out of lot of things they wanted to do offensively.
"I think we've made a big step forward since Brazil. Our guys really concentrated on getting better. We're looking forward to playing Korea (on Aug. 15) and getting that last exhibition before we get going for real."
Trailing Lithuania 6-5 with 6:31 left in the opening stanza, the Americans started clicking on all cylinders. An Anthony jumper got things rolling and just under three minutes later Anthony made one of two free throws to top off a 14-0 USA run. With Anthony scoring six points during the offensive surge, the USA pushed its lead to 19-6.
Lithuania closed the gap to 19-9 with 2:16 left in the quarter following a basket from Washington Wizards forward Darius Songaila, but then Wade hit a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions and after a deep jumper from Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls) and a tip-in by Elton Brand (Los Angeles Clippers), after one quarter of play the U.S. was fully in charge, 29-11.
While making 50.0 percent of its shots in the first quarter, the USA defense limited Lithuania to a mere 11 points, four of which came off of field goals.
The USA lead never fell lower than 13 points in quarter two. Lithuania guard Arvydas Macijauskas converted a pair of free throws to make it 39-26 with 4:34 remaining before halftime, but again the USA took control and outscored Lithuania 17-6 to close out the period. After LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) drained a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, the USA lead was upped to 56-32 at halftime.
After the first 20 minutes, Lithuania had made just one 1-of-8 3-pointers, and had shot just 8-of-30 overall, while also committing 11 turnovers.
The U.S. meanwhile, getting points from 11 different players, made 20-of-37 shots at the intermission and had connected on 7-of-14 from beyond the 3-point arc.
The USA's advantage in the third quarter never was less than 21 points and at the 30 minute mark the U.S. had muscled its lead to 81-53. Increasing its lead to as many as 35 points in the final quarter, the U.S. sailed on in for the win.
"Our game plan is to keep the ball moving. We have five guys out there who can score, who can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. I don't think we have to take a contested shot," remarked Anthony, who after four games lead's the USA's scoring attack averaging 17.8 points a game. "We moved the ball pretty well. We played good defense for 40 minutes and that's what we want to do."
With Anthony and Wade leading the attack, Antawn Jamison (Washington Wizards) and James each accounted for 13 points, Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks) finished with 12, while Hinrich and Chris Paul (New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets) tossed in 10 points each. Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors) grabbed a team best five rebounds and Wade was credited with a U.S. high four assists.
"It was a great start. From the jump, we came out very aggressive defensively," stated Wade.
Lithuania's scoring effort was headed by Ksistof Lavrinovic who tallied a game best 26 points and Darjus Lavrinovic added 15.
The 14 finalists contending for the 12 man 2006 USA Basketball Men's World Championship Team roster include: Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets); Gilbert Arenas (Washington Wizards); Shane Battier (Houston Rockets); Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors); Bruce Bowen (San Antonio Spurs); Elton Brand (Los Angeles Clippers); Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls); Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic); LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers); Antawn Jamison (Washington Wizards); Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks); Brad Miller (Sacramenton Kings); Chris Paul (New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets) and Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat).
Assisting USA head coach Krzyzewski are Syracuse University (N.Y.) and Hall of Fame mentor Jim Boeheim, Phoenix Suns head mentor Mike D'Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.
The USA's training continues in Seoul, with the USA finalists practicing Monday (Aug. 14) at the U.S. military base Yongsan as part of USA Basketball's Hoops For Troops program. The U.S. will finish off its exhibition schedule Tuesday (Aug. 15) facing host Korea in the final game of the World Basketball Challenge 2006. Following a practice on July 16 at Camp Casey, the Americas depart Aug. 17 for Sapporo, Japan, where it will play its preliminary rounds game of the 2006 FIBA World Championship from Aug. 19-24.
The USA's visit to China and Korea marks the first time that a USA men's senior national basketball team comprised of NBA players has visited either country.
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