Hot-Shooting Lithuania Handed Team USA Its First Loss Of The 2023 FIBA World Cup

After cruising through the group stage, USA Basketball came into Sunday’s matchup with Lithuania feeling very good about themselves but also facing a very dangerous matchup against a talented and very big Lithuania squad.

While the Americans were expected to have their hands full in the paint and on the glass, it was a three-point barrage early that saw Lithuania jump out to a 21-point advantage as they stunned the USA squad with their energy, ball movement, and knockdown shooting (particularly from their bigs). Lithuania knocked down its first eight threes of the game, unleashing a barrage from deep against a USA defense that seemed a step slow to getting out to shooters.

It wasn’t just a hot shooting start that had Lithuania rolling early, as their length stymied the American offense in the first quarter, they dominated the offensive glass, and their cutting caught the USA napping for some easy baskets inside.

At the half, Team USA trailed by 17, but as expected they came out with much better energy to start the third quarter, making a 13-2 run to trim the deficit to six with haste. Anthony Edwards was the catalyst on defense, as his ball pressure bothered Lithuania’s guards and kept them out of their actions, forcing turnovers and bad shots to allow the Americans to get out and run some, and it became Team USA’s time to knock down shots.

However, Lithuania had the answer for the big USA run out of the halftime break, continuing to apply pressure inside and once again knocking down timely shots to keep the U.S. squad from ever getting the game all the way back to level, ultimately pulling away for a 110-104 win. Lithuania punished switches in the post, particularly targeting Austin Reaves on the block, and continued its hot shooting, knocking down 14-of-25 from deep on the game — including a rather hilarious one to beat the shot clock buzzer that was an indicator this just wasn’t going to be Team USA’s night.

Edwards did his best to drag Team USA back into the game, scoring 35 on 14-of-26 shooting (5-of-13 from three), but he didn’t get enough help as only Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson (14 points each) and Brandon Ingram (10) could join him in double figures. The bench unit, which has been dominant all tournament, went cold in this one and foul trouble plagued the Americans as they struggled mightily to handle the size and physicality of Lithuania. Seven players scored in double figures from Lithuania (with two more scoring nine) as they got a balanced scoring night that was enough to take down Edwards’ sensational individual effort.

Moving forward, the Americans are still headed to the quarterfinals, but certainly showed there’s work to do if they’re going to make a run all the way to the gold. While you can certainly point to a wildly hot shooting night from Lithuania as a big reason for the loss, so many of those shots early were wide open and Team USA needs to shore up its defensive communication, particularly against pick-and-pop, and general intensity level on that end from the start of games. They’ll get their first chance to do so against Italy in the quarterfinals.