Location: Caja Magica in Madrid, Spain.
Why It Matters: Because ELA says so. Other than that, nah.
-Marty Pocius knocks down a pair of free throws and it’s 6-3 early in Lithuania’s favor. The guys in green want to get physical right now, and Coach K’s boys don’t seem to keen on that right now.
-Jonas Maciulis rolls on in and throws one down. Where was that for AJ Milano and the Euroleague this year? One of those guys with an ‘On/Off’ switch. Wish he flicked it more frequently.
-Granger tries to respond with some physicality of his own and turns it over on the charge. As long as they’re pushing it, I don’t care if they get four or five more charges. Better than wimping out with a jumper.
-Rudy Gay goes yam central on the break. Just ad this crazy thought: does transition basketball start with solid defense which leads to bad shots which lead to long rebounds? Couldn’t be…
-Chris Bosh in a milk commercial with his USA garb on. After watching the States’ bigs miss putback after putback, I almost feel insulted by his presence on my screen at the moment.
-I put Rudy Gay on the frontpage of ELA and how does he repay me? By losing the ball in the air after trying to get all cutesy on a dunk. Just giving the rest of the world ammunition for their “all style, no substance” arguments. I expect better, Rudolph.
-14-7 at the end of the first. Gross, disgustingly terrible performance by USA at the moment. Lithuania is playing harder than us, point blank.
-Missing three out of your first four three throws is not the best way to dig yourself out of a rut. Neither is turning it over and letting Maciulis take it the length of the floor uncontested for a lay-up. But I’ll be damned if Team USA didn’t do exactly that.
-Imagine how hard it would be to miss 22 out of your first 25 shots in a basketball game. If you happen to be in Madrid you should ask Odom, Westbrook and the rest of the guys how that feels.
-And then, somehow miraculously, we hit two in a row. Hardly matters though as Lithuania hasn’t slowed down one bit. They’re not scared at all, and they shouldn’t be. The red, white and blue are playing like the slow, hesitant and tranquilized.
-Pocius with the jam off Kleiza’s miss. Hell yes. I’m pulling for the USA to have more points at the end of this thing but I want Mr. Marty to finish with 83 points if possible. They need his helter skelter style of ball on this team and he needs to make the cut. A good game will get him on that plane. Plus, that point total would be one more than Kobe’s career high, and I hate him that much.
-A pair of free throws and then an easy bucket by Durant and the game’s all tied up. And while Lithuania (and every single person in the arena) is busy bargaining with the refs for yet another traveling violation, they forget to box out Lamar Odom who taps it in after an awkward miss.
-Billups, who shot 91% from the line last year in Denver, has missed three out of four from the stripe tonight. Strange. Props for the way he’s getting to the cup though. Creating more deuces than Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch.
-It seems as if Lithuania left their basketball IQ in the first quarter, and if it weren’t for a few will power drives from Kleiza their lead would have completely evaporated by now. It’s 29-28 at the half.
-Save an historically awful shooting start for the States, not much has surprised me here to start. Let’s break her down, team by teams:
Lithuania: They’re young, feisty and not especially skilled. If they’re ever going to have hot streaks/quarters (see: first quarter), it’ll be prompted by defensive muscle and offensive grit. While that may sound like some NFL Films cliché, it couldn’t be more true. So yes, Lithuania was tough to peg coming into this tournament, but only when trying to rank them in comparison to other nations. Handicapping their strengths and weaknesses isn’t really much of a challenge at all, it’s just how their opponents match up.
United States: They’re playing like a middle school team. There it is. Onto the next one…
-Delininkaitis nails a three after a beautiful baseline drive by Maciulis. Best part: USA decided to foul him. Missed the free throw but…dumb. Very dumb.
-Westbrook comes back and answers with a triple of his own. This up n’ down pace is great…for Team USA. Lithuania needs to slow things down and grind it out. This tempo does not become them.
-This is going to be a problem: Robertas Javtakas puts three straight in the hoop. One on his own, one assisted and one via putback. It only took us a minute and a half to see the myriad ways teams plan on killing us in the paint when a slow, chubby Lamar Odom is the best we have to offer under the bucket. Painful to watch.
-Oh wait, and before I press ‘Update’ on my WordPress dashboard, let me add that Javtokas just put in another. Valencia will like what they have in the Hammerhead.
-Either Google has failed me or I’me misspelling Love, but where the hell is Kevin Love? I know he had a bruised calf over a week ago but all reports were that he was doing just fine and dandy. So where the hell is our best big man? A 6’11” boatsized human who can score from the post, hit international threes and elbow jumpers with ease and puts up better rebounding numbers than anyone on the team. I understand that we think it’s fun to play small ball with Odom at the five, but you kill the break before it gets going if you allow offensive boards and easy inside buckets. I like Javtokas, but we’ll see far better bigs this summer. Starting tomorrow with Spain. I better see my K-Love or I’m boycotting. Not sure what that would entail, but it won’t be pretty.
-Since entering rant mode I’ve failed to report a score this entire quarter, so as it wraps up with a missed Eitutavicius jumper at the horn, Team USA leads 57-49. Ten minutes to go.
-This is what I was talking about. Lithuania might be able to employ a frantic pace against the New Zealands and Frances in pool play, but that’s the one way you won’t beat this Team USA. Quarter starts off with a Rudy Gay run out followed immediately by an Eric Gordon lay-in. This is where Lithuania’s lack of a point guard hurts. A team with better leadership gets it to their general, lets him reset and control the tempo. That is decidedly not Mantas Kalnietis’ forte. Strange to see Martynas Gecevicius sit the entire first half, but maybe Kestutis Kemzura wants to give the bubble guys more high pressure minutes.
-USA has broken it open now. It’s 65-49 with 6:22 left in the fourth.
-For anyone who may have been intrigued by the San Miguel 0.0% Alcohol Cerveza advertised at the top of each key, it tastes like vinegar-flavored water. You’ve been warned.
-Pretty sure that two of the biggest five ovations tonight have come after traveling calls exercised against the USA. Durant the latest crowd pleaser.
-I wish I could Photoshop Mantas Kalnietis’ head to make it more proportional to his body.
-Fran Fraschilla waxing poetic on Kevin Love right now, saying he “could be very important these next couple weeks if he’s healthy.” So the next question might be: Hey, Fran, is he healthy? Thanks for tying up the loose ends.
-Steph Curry into the game and his play-by-play looks like this: 1) shot fake, around a screen and a nifty dish to Lamar Odom who’s fouled on the lay. 2) Disrupts a pass from Kalnietis to Pocius. That ankle looked just fine hopping in the passing lane. 3) Triple from the wing. I think he’s going to be just fine.
-This lead has ballooned to 18, but that’s purely the talent gap talking. If USA plays this sloppy against Brazil or Slovenia in group play they will lose. If Lithuania plays this hard against France, Canada or New Zealand, they will win. They need to either slow things down or make crisper passes. Both wouldn’t hurt.
-77-61 is your final and Russell Westbrook takes the Player of the Game Trophy (didn’t know they were giving those out). He finished with 12 after looking very shaky in the first half. I cannot further enlighten you statistically due to the curious absence of a box score. Not on FIBA, not on USA Basketball’s website, not even on ESPN, the network who broadcast it in the states. Bummer.
Scratch that last sentence; I’ve found a list of high scorers on my Lithuanian go-to site, LithuaniaBasketball.com:
Lithuania: Linas Kleiza 12, Robertas Javtokas 10 (6 rebounds), Mantas Kalnietis, Jonas Mačiulis, Martynas Pocius 7, Renaldas Seibutis 6, Tomas Delininkaitis 5, Paulius Jankūnas 3, Martynas Gecevičius, Mindaugas Lukauskis po 2.
USA: Kevin Durant 15, Rudy Gay 14, Russell Westbrook 12, Eric Gordon 9, Chauncey Billups 7, Andre Iguodala & Stephen Curry 5, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger, Kevin Love and Lamar Odom 2.
That’s all for me, but remember to stop back through tomorrow as Spain takes on Team USA tomorrow at 10 EST. They’ll be quite a different animal for the Americans. I can’t wait to see it all go down.