And just like that, Team USA is no longer undefeated at the FIBA World Cup after Lithuania just whooped their ass from start to finish.
Now before anyone goes a little overboard in terms of freaking out, it's important to remember that Team USA is still on the path to play in the Quarterfinals, with this result basically penciling them into a game against Italy as opposed to Serbia. Of the two, Serbia has been the better team so maybe this loss actually helps? OK, I'll admit that was a heavy dose of copium considering Team USA shouldn't lose to any team, but you have to hand it to Lithuania, every time Team USA tried to come back they immediately punched back, often times with a prayer dagger three like this shit
But make no mistake, this was not a fluke win. This was an ass kicking. Remember how much of an issue rebounding was against Montenegro which played a huge role in why that game was close? The same shit happened today. Lithuania dominated the glass with 18 OREB for 17 2nd chance points. They won that battle 17-2, which as you can see by the final score was fairly impactful. They were lights out from behind the arc with 56 of their 110 coming from deep, finishing 14-25 (56%) as a team. They started hot (9-9 from deep) and never really cooled down.
Things weren't great to start with Team USA down 31-12 after the first quarter, and they were down 17 points (54-37) at the break. It wasn't like Team USA collapsed to lose this game, they were getting punched in the mouth for a full 40 minutes. When Lithuania wasn't grabbing OREB and scoring they were nailing 3s, and I don't care who you're playing if you don't protect the glass and you don't defend the three point line, things are not going to work out well for you. It didn't even really matter that Team USA came back from that 17 point deficit to make it close because Lithuania had an answer every single time.
Add in the fact that it was actually Lithuania whose depth showed up in this game with a bench scoring difference of 58-38, and this was maybe the most surprising part of today. Team USA's depth has been so good in this tournament, unfortunately, today it was nowhere to be found.
Paolo Banchero was a -14 in his 16 minutes off the bench, Brandon Ingram was a -10, Walker Kessler was a -10 in just 5 minutes, Austin Reaves had probably his worst game of the tournament with a -8 in his 12 minutes, Haliburton didn't do dick and was -4 in his 18 minutes, same with Cam Johnson. Basically, outside of Mikal Bridges (14 points on 5-7) and Anthony Edwards (35 points) with a little Jalen Brunson mixed in (14 points on 4-9), the rest of Team USA essentially no showed. It certainly doesn't help to only get 3 points from JJJ either. His foul issues are still a thing which I think we can all agree now are never going away, and that's for sure something to keep an eye on moving forward.
With how Montenegro and now Lithuania gave Team USA all sorts of trouble, I don't want to say the blueprint is out there on how to beat Team USA, but it does show that if you have legit size and you can shoot, you have a chance. There was nothing all that fluky about Lithuania's win, they were the tougher team. When you dominate on the glass like they did and you get the balanced scoring they did, you earn the win. Once you start doing that, the Basketball Gods reward you with prayer 3s, that's just how basketball works.
It's pretty clear the Montenegro game didn't do it, so perhaps today's loss will be the true wake-up call for Team USA. This is not a Dream Team situation where all they have to do is step on the court and win by 30. As we saw today, they can absolutely get beat if they don't play the right way.
OK, so what does the path ahead look like? Team USA will play Italy in the Quarterfinals on Tuesday, and if they win that game they face Germany, Latvia, or Spain in the Semifinals on Friday. Those are 3 legit teams with a collective record of 10-2, so as you can see things are only getting tougher from here on out. The days of the tune up games and winning by 48 are over, now the field is loaded with teams that can most certainly beat Team USA if they play like assholes like we saw today.
Sometimes getting punched in the mouth like this can wake everyone up before the single elimination starts, so let's hope that's the case here. I can't lie though, today looked a hell of a lot like the 2019 FIBA World Cup showing, and we know what a disaster that ended up being.