History unfolded as Lithuania defeated Team USA, 110-104, leaving the crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena buzzing at the FIBA World Cup 2023.
Coach Steve Kerr and his team needed a halftime jolt. Their answer? Cranking up the defensive pressure, limiting Lithuania to just two points in five intense third-quarter minutes.
A 17-point deficit at halftime dwindled to a mere four points, as the United States wrestled momentum in the third quarter. Mikal Bridges fueled the offensive surge, trimming USA’s deficit to 71-65 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Coach Kazys Maksvytis orchestrated his team brilliantly, ensuring the second unit preserved their lead. The stage was set for a final fourth-quarter push, with no player exceeding 18 minutes of playtime until that juncture.
With Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas anchoring the inside, and surprise hero backup point guard Vaidas Kariniauskas, Lithuania persistently found their way to the paint. They guarded their lead vigilantly, denying the USA any chance of closing the gap to a single possession. Their cool-headedness at the free-throw line in the final two minutes sealed the deal.
Lithuania: Player of the Game
Jonas Valanciunas was a force to be reckoned with. His stats, 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks, only scratch the surface of his impact. Valanciunas stood as the vocal leader and a formidable presence on the court, leaving his mark on Jaren Jackson Jr, Bobby Portis Jr, and Paolo Banchero, who all felt his dominance inside.
History Repeats Itself
Lithuania had won in 1998 and 2004, and now, in 2023, they did it again. Defeating the USA for the third time across three different generations, they demonstrated their determination to claim the top podium spot.
Tadas Sedekerskis notched an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double, while Mindaugas Kuzminskas added 14 points. Kariniauskas contributed 15 points, Ignas Brazdeikis had 11, and Tomas Dimsa and Eimantas Bendzius each chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Six players in double figures, complemented by two more players each with 9 points, showcased a well-balanced offensive strategy that stunned the USA.
Anthony Edwards was a standout for Team USA, amassing 35 points, but none of his teammates managed more than 14 in the game. This defeat marked the USA’s first group-stage loss in World Cup history since 2002.
The Quarter-Finals stage is set – Lithuania prepared to face Serbia, while the United States squared off against Italy on the other side of the bracket.
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