Team USA pulled it out yesterday, pulling away at the end to beat Lithuania, 77-61. It was a deep struggle for the USA, however, as they opened up the game on 3-21 shooting in the first quarter. Lithuania came out aggressive to take a 10-3 run, while the Americans battled terrible shooting and equally as bad decision making. While the defense was on point, there were still several occasions when they failed to pull the rebound or were completely sleep on the help side, resulting in easy buckets. The halfcourt offense looked absolutely atrocious; little movement, poor shooting, bad shot selection, you name it. Against zone or man, the US couldn’t crack the code.

Team USA’s starters, obviously expected to contribute heavily, did just the opposite, as Chauncey Billups, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant, Andre Igoudala, and Tyson Chandler all shot the ball horridly and struggled with turnovers. Derrick Rose, Rudy Gay and Russell Westbrook came off the bench to provide some much needed energy, though all of them had their mishaps as well, namely Rudy Gay, who botched a breakaway dunk early in the first half.

Despite it all, Team USA still managed to remain in the game. The offense picked up for both teams early in the second half, as did the pace of the game in general — which favored the Americans. Westbrook, who was expected to see some of the fewest minutes on the team, played so well in the first half that Coach K went with him to start the third quarter. More great energy from him, as well as Eric Gordon would carry Team USA through the second half and propel them to victory. A dirty foul by Lithuania would change the tide of the game, sending Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon to the line for a total of six free throws, and ignite a 24-2 Team USA run. Durant would lead Team USA with 15 points, while Gay had 14.

As bad as it looked, I’m still heavily optimistic. It’s pretty simple what has to happen. Pressure on D and pull the board, force turnovers, get out and push the break. In the halfcourt, they’ve got to penetrate and dish, move without the ball, and use ballscreens effectively. If those things don’t happen, they will take an L (or L’s??) guaranteed.

They play Spain Sunday at 2 on ESPN.

While he didn’t play great (again, no one did), D. Rose has a couple dope highlights:

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