Next Test for the USA: Lithuania
Aug. 20, 2010 • Madrid, Spain
The USA Men’s World Championship Team, which defeated China in a scrimmage and France in an exhibition game last week in New York, faces its next test tomorrow night in Madrid with a 9:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. EDT / ESPN) tip-off against Lithuania. The whole team is looking forward to this game, as well as Sunday’s against Spain and their final exhibition game against Greece on Wednesday.
Lithuania: The Scouting Report
USA Basketball Men’s National Team Director of International Player Personnel, Tony Ronzone will be providing the opponent scouting report before each game.
The first thing is that Lithuania is a very proud country, basketball is the number one sport. They’re a team that’s in transition right now. They’re going with a younger group because they’ve got the European Championship next year in Lithuania, but they still have good quality players. They shoot the ball very well. They spread the offense. They like to run a lot of sets and get open shots.
Their best player is Linas Kleiza, who played for the Denver Nuggets and now plays for the Toronto Raptors. He’s a guy who, it’s basically his team now, so he’s going to take the majority of the shots. He’s going to be the key guy for everything they do. Another kid they’ve got is (Martynas) Gecevicius, a two-guard, he’s another guy who’s a great shooter. We’ve got to defend him. He’s looking to score, he was the leading scorer on his European team in the regular season. The other bigs are all face shooters. It’s a good team to play because it’s good preparation for when we play Spain and Greece: a team that can shoot the ball when their feet are set, they spread the offense, they’re not real big. They’ve got one real big in Robert Javtokas, who the San Antonio Spurs drafted a few years back. He’s their big five. Mostly they’re face-up guys, but mostly we’ve got to defend the 3-point line.
|2004 Olympics (Bronze Medal Game)||8/28/04||USA||
|2004 Olympics (Preliminary Round)||8/21/04||Lithuania||
|2000 Olympics (Semifinal)||9/29/00||USA||
|2000 Olympics (Preliminary Round)||9/21/00||USA||
|1996 Olympics (Preliminary Round)||7/24/96||USA||
|1992 Olympics (Semifinal)||8/06/92||USA||
USA-LITHUANIA SERIES HISTORY
Lithuania, which placed fourth in the 2008 Olympic Games and seventh in the ’06 World Championship, currently, lists No. 6 in the FIBA world rankings. The U.S. and Lithuania did not play in the 2008 Olympics, however, the U.S. did post a 120-84 win over the Lithuanians on Aug. 1, 2008, in a pre-Olympics exhibition game in Macao, China. The two teams last met in a FIBA competition in the bronze medal game (8/28/2004) of the 2004 Olympics, a game the USA took 104-96. Eight days earlier, Lithuania stunned the Americans and posted a 94-90 victory during preliminary play.
Since NBA players became eligible to participate in FIBA competitions, the USA has compiled a 5-1 win-loss record versus Lithuania national teams in official FIBA competitions.
|Seoul, South Korea||9/13/06||USA||111||Lithuania||88|
The only previous times a USA Basketball National Team comprised of NBA players met Lithuania in an exhibition game came in 2008 prior to the Beijing Olympic Games and in 2006 ahead of the 2006 World Championship. The USA defeated Lithuania 120-84 in Macao, China (9/1/2008) and posted a 111-88 victory in Seoul, South Korea (9/13/2006).
USA head coach Mike Kryzyzewski
We respect the heck out of them.
If you beat Spain, that would be a big boost to the team, right?
You know what? We beat Spain in the (Olympic) pool play by over 30 points. I know the way things go in international play. Not everybody’s going to show everything all the time. In the Olympic (gold medal game) we’re up by two with eight minutes to go. It was a different team. We don’t have our whole system in yet, what we’re going to do defensively or offensively. We’re still building up to that. Where Spain, they already know. They know what they’re going to do, they’ve been playing together a long time.
What are one of the top things you want to learn about your team this weekend?
The very first thing is game experience and what we will do in game conditions. I thought when we played France, we were a little bit nervous to start the game. I would hope that we are not that in the Lithuania game. Nervous, not afraid.
The main thing for me is for them to be themselves. Have the egos that they have on their current teams show up when we’re playing as a unit. Sometimes you can be too much of a team member and your ego goes down a little bit. Really, that’s the main thing.
Is that especially true for Kevin Durant?
All the young guys. I think Chauncey knows, and Lamar, but that’s something that’s developed over time. I think Kevin’s working his way into that. These three games will be really big for him and for all of our young players, just to be yourself. Yesterday we scrimmaged and I thought that was his best day, Kevin’s best day. He’s been overpassing. That’s part of their … they want to please one another. I said, ‘you’re a scorer. When you get the ball, they expect you to shoot it. Then a pass should be more of a bail out for you.’ He did that a little bit more yesterday and I thought that he looked very good yesterday.
Thoughts on the match-up between Pau Gasol and Tyson Chandler:
It’ll be more than just Gasol and Chandler. Odom will be on him, Love, I think both of them are really good players. Usually I don’t look at one-on-one match-ups because if we’re going to be playing one-on-one, we’re going to lose. It should be team defense. The one thing about the international game is that it makes you play team defense better. There’s no defensive three seconds. That’s a big habit we’re trying to get over with these guys – that they can stay over on the help side of the court. So no one guy is going to cover one guy. The team is going to guard.
It’ll be good because Gasol had a great year and he looks like he’s in unbelievable shape. He’s lost weight. He looks good. And he is good.
On the USA’s lack of girth:
We’re big enough, that’s why we’re here, to play. The fact is, you would like to have more height, more experience and a little bit more weight. But we’re not going to try to reinvent that, we’re not going to try and eat more here so we get too much weight either. We have to be ourselves and play the game we’re practicing to play. Obviously we’re not as big as we were in 2008.
How has your opinion of Eric Gordon evolved over the last month?
Just great. He’s really had a terrific practice every day. Because we didn’t know him as well, a lot of times he was just coming in cold, whether it be a scrimmage with the Select Team or whatever. Everyday he’s produced, he’s been very steady. Of course he’s a guy that doesn’t need the ball long. So he’s an easy guy to play, he and Igoudala don’t need the ball very long. You have guys like on our Olympic team, Carmelo didn’t need the ball long. That really helps. He’s been very good.
Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets)
What do you know about Lithuania?
I don’t know that much about them other than one of my former teammates, Linas Kleiza, is one of their star players. I’m looking forward to watching the tape on them tonight and watching their game tonight.
On playing against another team after five days off?
We are looking forward to getting some different competition … not wearing each other out every day playing against each other. That will be good to do.
What type of progress has the team made this week in Spain?
I thought we made a lot of progress. We know how we got to play … we worked on that… we know the strengths of our team … we worked on that … and we established some of the weaknesses that we got to work on. I think we have gotten better this week.
What are the key things for this team to win?
Defense. Us just pressuring teams into turning the ball over on defense. I think the biggest key is going to be rebounding for us. With us having a small team, rebounding is going to be huge. I think just knocking shots down.
We want the gold. Only gold. It’s the only option for us.
~ Kevin Durant
Have you been encouraged by how well the team has shot the ball?
We’ve shot the ball pretty good. But, as you know, in this competition, all you have to do is have one bad shooting night and not playing good defense, that could be it.
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
How did the ankle feel today in practice?
It felt fine. We had a non-contact practice so I got a chance to get up and down and get loose. And, not really worry about getting in traffic or stepping on someone’s foot or anything. That helped me get back in the flow of it, and then I got a nice little individual workout that I could do cuts, work on my shooting, get my touch back and everything felt pretty fine. I’m pretty optimistic about tomorrow.
What do you know about Lithuania?
Well, it’s a lot different now but I played them in U19s back three years ago. I know Linas Kleiza. I’m familiar with a couple of their guys and I know they’re one of those tough teams you’re going to have to play in the World Championships. Hopefully, we’re going to play well tomorrow and get a win.
Is the team getting a little anxious to play games?
We felt like that with China and France, right before playing them and then you come out here … long travel day and then three days of practice and just sitting in the hotel, kind of just anticipating, waiting on Saturday. Definitely looking forward to it. We love to compete and play. The more we play, the closer we get to actually going to Turkey where it means something. We’re ready.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
On the lack of size for the USA:
I think our athleticism and our length makes up for that. Our big guys, Tyson, Lamar Odom, they offset that a lot. Me and Rudy playing the 4 and Danny Granger, we can do that as well. We just got to see how we stack up once we play.
Your biggest worry when playing Spain’s team:
Everybody. Their guards, their wings, big men, everybody. They have been playing together for a while. They are always one of the top teams in international play so we got to look out for them.
Goal for Turkey:
We want the gold. Only gold. It’s the only option for us.
On Saturday’s game:
I can’t wait to play. We’ve been practicing four days. We are looking forward to playing against other competition.
On the lesson you can learn from the Greece-Serbia altercation:
(Coach) talked to us today. We’re a smart team. We know not to get in any stuff like that. We’re aggressive. We play hard and we compete but there’s a difference between fighting and playing basketball. I don’t think we will ever do anything like that because if we do that, that represents the whole U.S. and we want to be a good clean team and play hard. But, we will compete.
Sunday’s game is a more of a friendly game?
Every game is competitive and we want to win, no matter if it counts or not. It’s going to be competitive.
On your role on the team?
I just have to go out there and play my game. Always make sure I work. Just be myself. I think that’s the main thing the coaches want me to do. Early on in camp, I was trying to be passive and was trying to fit in. But, these last couple of days, I’ve been real aggressive and trying to be myself.
Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers)
You’ve played Lithuania in the past, what kind of style of basketball do they play?
They really run their sets, play physical, they have good shooters and is a smart basketball team. It’ll be a competitive game. Of course all the teams in this tournament we’re playing against, everybody’s very powerful.
Will it be good for you to play three really good teams over the course of the next five games?
Oh definitely. It’ll be good for us to finally play someone else. We’ve been beating ourselves up. The speed and the physicality of our game is really intense. I’m really looking forward to taking it out on someone else.
On being in Spain:
It’s cool, just to be here … basketball has taken me to so many different places. I’m blessed. This has all come to me because of basketball. I’m very fortunate.
Have you done anything off the court?
We went out. We went to this place called Buddah Lounge, it’s a great restaurant. It has great food. The seafood here is good. I’ve hung out and gotten to see the town a little bit. Maybe today I’ll go to the museum, see what’s up, walk around.
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
What do you know about Lithuania?
Nothing at all yet. We just got film today from the coaches and I’m going to go to my room and watch the DVD, look at how their guards play, pick out their whole team, just go through everybody so I can be familiar when I come into the game as to how to play the guards.
Is it good to go up against three good opponents over this five-day span leading into the World Championship?
Definitely. I think playing against anybody here will help us. Even playing against each other in practice is really helping each day. They’re teams that you can’t look past. You have to take everyone serious and go out there and compete against them.