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Published: 8/4/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

U.S. survives scare against Lithuania

ASSOCIATED PRESS
USA's Kevin Durant, left, and Lithuania's Mantas Kalnietis, right,  scramble for a rebound during a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics. USA's Kevin Durant, left, and Lithuania's Mantas Kalnietis, right, scramble for a rebound during a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
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Still unbeaten, but perhaps more importantly, the U.S. is no longer untested.

The Americans got a game against Lithuania -- and then some. They got a scare.

Two days after running and gunning to a record-shattering 83-point win, the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team had to come back in the fourth quarter for a 99-94 win over a fearless Lithuania team that had the Americans in serious trouble until the closing minutes.

LeBron James scored 9 of his 20 points in the final four minutes for the U.S. (4-0), which had looked nearly invincible in thrashing Nigeria 156-73 on Thursday night and breaking several records. The Americans were reminded that the path to the gold medal is loaded with traps and Lithuania nearly sprang one.

Carmelo Anthony added 20 points, Kevin Durant 16, and Chris Paul added seven rebounds, six assists, and four of the U.S. team's 17 steals.

Linas Kleiza scored 25 to lead Lithuania, which led 84-82 with 5:50 to play. After the U.S. took a three-point lead, Lithuania would not go away and pulled within 87-86 on Darius Songaila's bucket with 4:12 left.

That's when James took control.

He knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and after Paul stole the inbounds pass, James took a pass down the right side and delivered with a dunk, a basket that brought the American players off the bench and seemed to restore order.

After a basket by Deron Williams -- on a possession Paul kept alive with an offensive rebound -- James followed a Lithuania turnover with a left-handed layup, giving the U.S. a 97-88 lead and allowed the Americans to remain unbeaten -- though no longer untested as they get ready for Argentina on Monday.

With a roster featuring Kleiza, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, and several players who played collegiately in the U.S., Lithuania, which upset the U.S. at the Athens Game in 2004 and has won three bronze medals, went right at the Americans' star-studded crew from the start.

In fact, Lithuania outrebounded the U.S. 42-37 and for long stretches it was the sharper team on the floor. Lithuania also shot an impressive 58 percent (38 for 65) from the field.

With their bench, the U.S. simply wore Lithuania down in the fourth quarter, forcing several turnovers to swing the game in the final minutes.

In the morning session, Russia, overlooked by many coming into the tournament, upset medal-favorite Spain 77-74 to win Group B.

Afterward, Russia's Andrei Kirilenko, who recently signed with Minnesota, offered a prophetic take on the uncertainty of Olympic tournament play.

"One night you can have 156 points, and a different night the ball could start missing," he said.

That's exactly what happened to the Americans, who went 10 of 33 from behind the arc.

Within four at halftime, Lithuania scored the first five points of the third quarter and took its first lead when Sarunas Jasikevicius knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 56-55. Lithuanian's lead lasted less than a minute as Durant hit a 3-pointer during a 7-0 run and the U.S. took a 78-72 lead into the fourth.



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