LONDON -- The U.S. men got their first real test in Olympic basketball today, surviving a determined Lithuanian bid at an upset with a 99-94 win.
Lithuania shot the ball beautifully -- 58.5 percent -- and dissected the American defense repeatedly for layups. Former Duke player Martynas Pocius was one of the stars.
LeBron James took the game into his own hands late, however, scoring almost all of the American points in a critical late stretch, including a three-pointer, a dunk and a spinning left-handed layup.
U.S. Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski said he thought his team could play better both offensively and defensively, but that a close game and a positive result could pay dividents.
Said Coach K: "We can be more ready to play than we were. But overall it was a really good game for us. Winning like we did was terrific… Every one of my guys wanted the ball and then they produced when they got it. So that was a cool thing, a good thing."
The surprising thing, besides the score, is that Lithuania hasn't been that good in the tournament. The team had already been beaten by both France and Argentina and now is 1-3. This will make the U.S. game against Argentina more interesting Monday. Following that game, win or lose, the U.S. moves to the knockout round starting Wednesday.
This game did show that what Mike Krzyzewski said before the tournament began is true. The U.S. can be beaten.
The Americans shot poorly from three-point range and their pick-and-roll defense was suspect, and that is the sort of thing that can almost get you beaten even when you're playing a team that doesn't come close to you in sheer athleticism.
James had 20 points for the U.S., shooting 9-for-14 and "refusing to give the ball up" at the end, as Coach K noted. "He took the game over," Krzyzewski said.
Carmelo Anthony also had 20 for the U.S. and Kevin Durant had 16. Linas Kleiza was very effective inside for Lithuania, scoring 25.