Game Analysis

FIBA World Cup Semifinal Recap: USA 96, Lithuania 68

USA blew it open in the third to advance into Finals.

Lithuania vs. USA – Game Recap

Well, it was at least close for the first half. Foul trouble and a lack of energy bogged down the Americans to begin the game — a trend that’s afflicted them throughout this tournament. Lithuania were sure to be the aggressors, but wonky officiating also played a factor. Lithuania found themselves in the bonus just three minutes into the first quarter.

Lithuanian guard play was strong, led by the continuing upstart play of fill-in point guard Adas Jusekevicius, who pushed the tempo early in transition to help land the Americans in foul trouble. Late in the first quarter, Lithuanian head coach Jonas Kuzlauskas made a surprising move to bring little-used wing Mindaugas Kuzminskas into the game. The move bolstered Lithuania’s athleticism on the wing and Kuzminskas even flashed some surprisingly decent ball-handling skills.

Team USA, on the other hand, looked bothered by the physicality and the officiating. Their offensive execution wasn’t great, but having a Anthony Davis at center single-handedly neutralized Lithuania’s interior weapons. This included Jonas Valanciunas, who scored most of his points on free-throws. Davis’ steady presence at the rim allowed USA’s guards to be more daring and aggressive on defense. They held Lithuania to 1-of-8 shooting from deep in the first half, and forced 12 turnovers.

But still, the score at half was 43-35, a decent result for Lithuania. They were within striking distance and the Americans didn’t look their best.

And then the third quarter happened.

A layup from James Harden. A triple by Stephen Curry. A layup from Anthony Davis. Another three-pointer, this time by Harden. In the span of under two minutes, the Americans went on a 10-0 run to start the third. And with that, the game was effectively over. Harden finished with 16 points in the quarter. Team USA finished with 33. Lithuania scored just 14.

With the win, the USA will face either Serbia or France in the Finals. Godspeed to either of those two teams. The American team is a flying buzzsaw.

Lithuania vs. USA – Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan’s assessment

DeRozan’s boxscore: 0 points (o-for-1 FG), one assist in eight minutes

Valanciunas’ boxscore: 15 points (2-for-5 FG, 11-for-13 FT), seven rebounds in 27 minutes

There’s nothing to say about DeRozan. He barely played.

Valanciunas, on the other hand, struggled when it mattered. Davis’ length completely shut him down, especially in the post. Lithuania tried to prioritize Valanciunas on the block in an effort to goad Davis into foul trouble and while that strategy worked to some extent — Davis ultimately fouled out during the second half — Valanciunas also got thoroughly dominated. A sidelines pick-and-roll resulted in a block. A straight-on pick-and-roll drew a foul. A post-up resulted in another block for Davis.

That’s to be expected for Valanciunas. He didn’t have the size advantage, and quite frankly, Davis looks like the second-coming of Kevin Garnett.

The more important story was the feud between Valanciunas and Cousins. The two found themselves embroiled in a second quarter dispute. Boogie was overtly physical, but Jonas didn’t back down. The back-and-forth went on for most of the quarter and ultimately culminated with Cousins almost taking Valanciunas’ head off after Jonas threw an elbow to his throat.

The incident earned Boogie a tech, but that didn’t end the dispute. Bad blood continued in the second half, with Boogie outright hounding Valanciunas on every opportunity he had. After he fouled out, Boogie was seen mocking Valanciunas by pretending to throw elbows while talking to Harden. It didn’t even stop there, with a small skirmish breaking out after the game had ended.

Look, throwing an elbow to the throat is clearly dangerous and it shouldn’t be done, but lobbing ‘bows is a practice as old as the game of basketball. It happens. Valanciunas does make a habit of getting his arms high. But while Valanciunas moved on and played the rest of the game unfazed by the entire ordeal, Boogie’s frustration for the remainder of the game was apparent, and it hampered what was otherwise an excellent performance.

And of course, the incident brought out the worst of the internet.

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