The U.S. took Lithuania down on the strength of a dynamic third quarter in which the team seemed to explode against their Baltic rivals, 96-68.
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Consider this first though: Lithuania got to the foul line 42 times and of their 68 points, 32 came from the line.
So the U.S. held Lithuania to 36 points from the floor and just 2-11 from three point range (2-18/11.1%). Lithuania hit just fifteen two point shots and overall was held to 30.4%.
The U.S. forced 21 turnovers and at one point in the second half took the ball away seven straight times.
It was basic dominance, as former Blue Devil Marty Pocius pointed out afterwards:
"They make you play their style of game. That's the beauty of that team. I think we did very well coming to the semi-finals, but our most important game will be on Saturday."
There was a surprising amount of chippiness in this one, starting with DeMarcus Cousins squaring off with Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas.
This was the moment everyone sort of dreaded and sort of expected. There is a steady supply of dirty play in international competition - recall Nicolas Batum's punch to Juan Carlos Navarro's nether regions in the closing minutes of France's lost to Spain in the 2012 Olympics (when asked why, Batum said "I wanted to give him a good reason to flop.")
Still, Cousins should have known better than to react as he did and he drew a quick technical.
It didn't matter in this game, but both Cousins and Anthony Davis fouled out. That could have been very problematic, particularly since both had techs, which count as fouls in international play.
One wonders, over the course of his team-molding, Coach K has said to Cousins about anger, which is something they have in common although they deal with it very differently.
We can't find the link but recently Coach K spoke about his anger and how useful it has been to him, how he harnesses it.
Given Krzyzewski's approach to coaching and players, it would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall when he talks to Cousins.
Although Cousins did get whistled, he didn't raise his hands. So maybe he's grown up a bit.
So far in this tournament, we've seen teams try in various ways to slow and frustrate the U.S. In every case, Team USA has erupted later in the game and run away.
It won't be as easy against France or Serbia on Sunday, and as impressive as France was against Spain, Serbia has played extremely well too. More importantly, they've improved. Take a look:
- Serbia 85 Egypt 64
- France 74 Serbia 73
- Serbia 83 Iran 70
- Serbia 81 Brazil 73
- Spain 89 Serbia 73
- Serbia 90 Greece 72
- Serbia 84 Brazil 56
And keep in mind Serbia barely lost to France earlier.
Sometimes in a tournament, things just click. That happened for France against Spain. It may very well happen for Serbia against France, and they put together back-to-back whippings against Greece and Brazil.
Friday's game should be extremely interesting.
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