September 27, 2023

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Takeaways from Team USA’s FIBA ​​World Cup loss to Lithuania

Takeaways from Team USA’s FIBA ​​World Cup loss to Lithuania

Brian WindhorstSenior writer for ESPNSeptember 3, 2023 at 03:31 PM ETRead 7 minutes

Steve Kerr: Lithuania ‘hit us in the mouth’

Coach Steve Kerr hopes Team USA can learn from their loss to Lithuania.

Manila, Philippines – Team USA was in some head-to-head situations FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, but this is not one of them.

This is an ode to an old quote from LeBron James, and it’s appropriate. It is easy to have a backlash when perennial favorites Americans lose in international play. And sure enough, they lost to Lithuania on Sunday with a score of 110-104.

But we must understand that this is not a crisis or some kind of unexpected challenge. Americans run a glaring weakness that has been a glaring weakness all along.

The United States is a small country and Lithuania has taken advantage of this opportunity. Americans have been young for years on these events. It may remain small for years to come, which will be discussed shortly.

They combat height imperfections using various treatments, and they are usually effective in doing so. And they can be very effective in this matter again.

And Coach Steve Kerr has chosen — not this week or this month, but when he brought the team together with the NBA’s leadership — that rather than fight the problem, they’ll embrace it. Instead of trying to find big players to compete head-to-head, they will rely on all-American great guards and wingers who have the speed and ability to guard the bigger players.

That’s why there’s only one real center — Walker Kessler, who plays the least — and a number of forwards who play in the central position like Garren Jackson Jr., Bobby Portes, and Paulo Panchero. There are players like Tyrese Halliburton, Mychal Bridges, Austin Reeves, Cam Johnson and Josh Hart who are tall and can defend different positions.

It’s not just an accident or some bad luck that the United States is so small.

“That’s always been the equation,” Kerr said last week. “Some things you live with, you go into every game and figure out what you’re willing to live with versus the non-negotiables.”

Kerr’s non-negotiables, with both Team USA and the Golden State Warriors, are well established. His trophy case tells the story of how he achieved this.

Lithuania are the biggest and strongest team in the tournament and are in the midst of a magical series of three-pointers. And her performance in Sunday’s match was one of the best in World Cup history.

The team made its first nine three-pointers. nine! And I got 14 out of 25 overall. Lithuania entered the match scoring 44% in 3 seconds in the tournament, leading among all teams. And then it got even better. Nine different players made at least one 3. Nine!

Late in the fourth quarter, legitimate thrower Imantas Pindzius threw a vital three-pointer off a layup at the shot clock buzzer after the USA played 23.5 seconds of stellar defense. Anthony Edwards knocked the ball out of his hands two seconds before the shot clock and Bendzius prayed.

“Hooray for Number 22, man,” Edwards said.

actually. It brought to mind the game the United States lost to Greece in the 2006 World Championship. Yes, that was a flawed and ill-prepared American team. Yes, the Greeks were great for most of the night and got the win. And yes, Greece fired a couple of wild shots, including at least one three-pointer that fell off the glass and didn’t come into play.

It would be smart for Team USA to support any team that faces Lithuania the rest of the way. The Americans didn’t get to take on Lithuania again until the World Cup final, though the USA has a lot of work to do between now and then.

Lithuania is a terrible match for this team. It has the scale and depth to mitigate what Americans do best. He was known to be a serious pre-match test and he proved it.

If these teams played five times, the Lithuanians would probably win all five on the rebound. It may not be soon. But the United States won the second half on Sunday by 11 points, and that with some hiccups.

If Lithuania continues to shoot three-pointers in this way – now it’s almost 47% – they will win the World Cup. If Team USA continues to get only one rebound every two games from Jackson, as was the case this weekend, he probably won’t medal.

Americans have a lot to do. Among them is Edwards, who scored 35 points on Sunday.

“We’re fortunate that losing didn’t hurt us in terms of our goal of winning the gold medal,” Kerr said. “But it’s a great game for us to try.”

What led to Team USA losing to Lithuania?

Brian Windhorst sums up Team USA’s 110-104 loss to Lithuania.

More takeaways from Team USA’s loss to Lithuania:

• So, why isn’t there any size in the US list? Let’s use our knowledge of NBA rosters and consider the available American centers. There are a lot of European starting names. Some, like Lithuania Jonas Valancionas, is in Manila and plays against them.

At the last World Cup in 2019, the United States took on three big spots, Miles Turner, Brook Lopez and Mason Plumley. They were completely ineffective. The Americans finished seventh.

In Tokyo, Team USA brought in two smaller, faster and more versatile centers defensively: Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green. He won the gold medal. JaVale McGee was on the list but didn’t play much. Kevin Durant played more in the back line.

Kessler was chosen because he represents the biggest and strongest advocate for American youth. Cleveland Cavaliers quarterback Evan Mobley, a potential defensive star, might have been an option. But he doesn’t have the bulk of a Kessler or a Banshero, which Kerr seems to have preferred.

Anthony Davis is a great choice and choice. He has won gold medals. It will definitely help. He’s signed an extension with the Los Angeles Lakers and won’t have to worry about free agency next summer when the Olympics are on schedule. It would be a perfect fit for what Kerr wants to do.

Sources said Davis is open to the idea of ​​returning to the national team next year, but it is too early to tell.

Which brings us to Joel Embiid. He is a US citizen as of last summer. He can play for the United States in Paris next year if he is healthy and wants to turn down the chance to play for France, where he also holds citizenship.

USA Basketball CEO Grant Hill and General Manager Sean Ford know that, of course. There was recruitment, of course. Embiid would make a huge difference.

But it is not reliable. It just doesn’t fit the way Kerr wants to play. He is not in the Philippines.

Assistant coach Erik Spoelstra has a saying borrowed from Hall of Famer Pat Riley: “You have to be active participants in your rescue.”

Here’s another one from Spo: “We’ve had enough.”

And both are correct in this case.

• what is next? Italy in the quarter-finals. It would seem like a break for the United States to woo the Italians rather than traditional powerhouse Serbia, which it would have played had it beat Lithuania.

Maybe not. Italy is a stronger team in rebounding than Serbia, which does not have Nikola Jokic. If Jokic plays in the event – he could have a shot at the summer golden double that Marc Gasol achieved in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors and Spain.

Right now, rebounding power is the most important when looking at a Team USA opponent. The Italians are also better at three-pointers than the Serbs, which is really remarkable.

At this point, nothing can be taken for granted.

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