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Team USA loses to Lithuania, drops first game in FIBA World Cup action

Lithuania kept Austin Reaves on the bench, and was in firm control all game as they handed Team USA their first World Cup loss.

USA v Lithuania: Group J - FIBA Basketball World Cup Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

Lithuania shocked the basketball world on Sunday morning as they upset Team USA, 110-104. With the win, Lithuania secured the top seed in Group J of the FIBA World Cup.

Team USA still advances to the quarterfinals but they’ll now have to beat Italy if they want to continue their World Cup run. It was a poor performance throughout the contest, with Anthony Edwards and Mikal Bridges being the few bright spots.

Edwards ended the night with 35 points on 14-26 shooting and Bridges did most of his damage in the second half, finishing with 14 points.

On the Lakers’ front, Austin Reaves couldn’t stay out of foul trouble as his five fouls forced him on the bench for most of the game. He ended the night with just seven points on a mere four attempts.

From the jump, Lithuania dominated nearly every facet of the game. They pummeled Team USA in the paint, on the glass and also made their first nine 3-point attempts. They not only took an early 17-8 lead on the scoreboard but thoroughly controlled the action from there.

Because of Lithuania’s physical play, Jaren Jackson Jr. picked up two quick fouls which limited the team’s frontcourt defense. If it wasn’t clear already, it became evident this would be the most challenging game Team USA has played so far in the World Cup.

Austin Reaves was subbed in late in the first quarter, and as he continues to do, immediately found ways to get to the line where he made all four of his free-throw attempts in the first half.

But similar to the last game against Jordan, Reaves struggled to get shot attempts up as he missed both of his early looks. It also didn’t help that like Jackson, he found himself in foul trouble with two fouls in just seven first-half minutes.

While it was mostly a collective struggle on the offensive end, Edwards was the only player in Red, White and Blue that found some success as he scored 16 points in the first half.

But with Lithuania continuing to have the edge in nearly every category, including winning the rebound battle, 26-15, USA found themselves down 54-37 at the half.

After clearly getting outworked through the first two quarters, the start of the third was a drastic switch for Team USA. A big reason for the turnaround was their improved defensive pressure as they forced three turnovers to help jumpstart their transition game. Thanks to their improved effort, USA went on a 13-2 run to start the second half.

Alongside Edwards, Bridges also caught fire in the third as his work on both ends helped cut the lead to just six entering the final frame.

Despite his rough game, Steve Kerr trusted Reaves and kept him on the floor to start the fourth. But after Lithuania once again targeted him on defense, the head coach was forced to sub him out of the game.

Reaves’ foul trouble really limited him in this one, which is ironic because it’s exactly the kind of tactics his detractors claim brings him so much success.

Team USA fought valiantly throughout the final quarter but for every run they went on Lithuania would respond with a clutch basket. After Rokas Jokubaitis hit a tightly contested three over Edwards, it was clear that Lithuania was not going to go away.

The U.S. remained in striking distance thanks to their own 3-point shooting, but it came too late as Lithuania held their ground by hitting their free throws late to secure the win.

Key Takeaways

The Dream Team, this is not. Team USA is not going to just roll out five players and expect to win with this type of effort. They need everyone playing at their highest level and Kerr has to optimize his rotations quickly. If not, they will be eliminated in the following rounds, especially if they run into another physical and hungry team like they faced on Sunday.

Luckily for Team USA, this could be the exact type of wake-up call they needed to refocus and right the ship while there’s still time.

You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.

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