Team USA struggles early, beats Lithuania late

08.22.10 8 years ago 24 Comments

On paper, a team whose best player is Linas Kleiza shouldn’t get anywhere within 30 points of a squad that features five NBA All-Stars. But that’s why we love the uniqueness and unpredictability of international tournaments like the Olympics and World Championships. In yesterday’s pre-WC exhibition, Kleiza and Team Lithuania gave Team USA all they could handle, taking the lead after a terrible first quarter for the U.S. (3-for-21 shooting, six turnovers) and staying right with them until a costly flagrant/technical foul combo — was Nenad Krstic in the building? — sparked a 17-0 run in the second half that pushed the U.S. to a 16-point W … As has been the trend, at least two guys who are in danger of getting cut made strong cases for why they shoudl stay. Russell Westbrook (12 pts) and Eric Gordon (9 pts, 3 stls) were key during the big run, while Stephen Curry played on his sore ankle but didn’t do much. Kevin Durant was the high scorer with 15 points (4-14 FG), and Kleiza led Lithuania with 12 points … And another good big man has dropped out of the World Championship picture. Nene will not play for Brazil, citing inflammation of the legs. We could’ve sworn Anderson Varejao had a problem with that a few summers ago; so either somebody needs to check out the water in Brazil, or that’s just their internal code for “He doesn’t feel like playing,” or “He’s gotten chunky.” … We’ve talked about Chauncey Billups being an undercover MVP for Team USA, and with the Carmelo situation up in the air, he may find himself being The Man in Denver before he knows it. Billups says that he wants to play four more years — he’ll be pushing 38 by then — and “in a perfect world” he’d stay with the Nuggets for the duration. But Chauncey also said he wants to go out a winner, and who knows what that team will look like following a ‘Melo trade? … You’ve seen where Shaq‘s career has gone as he hits 38. What kind of player do you think Chauncey will be at that age? … NBA Twitter junkies will be glad to know Brandon Jennings is back tweeting after months-long absence. He’s now going by @BLKICE3, after his new Under Armour Black Ice signature shoe that hit stores Nov. 1. The other night we hit up an exclusive launch party for Young Money, which we’ll recap on tomorrow morning … The Dime crew was all over the playground basketball scene this weekend. In New York City we had the Nike Tournament of Champions, the annual bragging-rights bowl where the winners of NYC’s most competitive summer leagues face each other in a one-day, winner-take-all challenge. Congrats to Hoops In the Sun (HITS) from the Bronx for taking the crown … And some of the Dime crew hit the road this weekend, shooting down to Washington D.C. for the last stop on the Red Bull 2on2 Revolution tour. Emerging from a pool of some of D.C.’s asphalt legends, the Philly duo dubbed “No Mercy” won their second straight Red Bull title … On the way to D.C., somewhere around Delaware, we passed a road sign that said “Aberdeen Proving Ground.” We imagine it’s just a random empty parking lot, and when you pull your car up there’s one dude standing there waiting for you like, “So what’s up? We doin’ this?” … We’re out like Twitter hiatuses …

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