Team USA dropped its first game of the FIBA World Cup with a 110-104 loss to Lithuania on Sunday. America’s deep bench failed to find its usual high gear, allowing their opponents to take full advantage of their size and strength advantages.
Anthony Edwards was his usual explosive self, dropping 35 points on 14-of-26 shooting. However, the budding star had little help from his teammates. Lithuania out-rebounded Team USA 43 to 27, as it dominated on the glass and controlled the tempo of the game.
Despite the loss, Team USA will still advance to the quarterfinals. However, the defeat should serve as a wake-up call for Steve Kerr’s young team. Having a roster full of NBA talent doesn’t guarantee you victory.
Instead, it’s a reason for other contending teams to raise their game. Lithuania won because it played to its strengths, moved the ball well, and, most importantly, played for each other.
Kerr will be wise to make his team watch the game tape. There are lessons to be learned from how Lithuania overcame such a talented young team. Nevertheless, there should be an inquest into how the USA defended in the first half as the Americans conceded open three after open three and failed to make adjustments.
Jonas Valanciunas made light work of Jaren Jackson Jr. down low, and dribble penetration generated high-quality looks all game.
Team USA has to improve.
Fortunately, there is an upside. Every team is allowed one stinker. Team USA will have a renewed understanding of the difficult task on their hands and what it takes to win a World Cup.
Whether it rises to the occasion remains to be seen, but this loss certainly hurt, and that could be what spurs the team on to greatness.