Additional Quotes >> USA 99, Lithuania 94
London, England • Aug. 4, 2012
On the Game:
First of all to Coach (Kęstutis) Kemzūra who is a great friend and we spent a lot of time together. Congratulations your team played magnificently and there is quickness that an individual has, but when a team has quickness together that’s what makes our game so beautiful and they were quick as a unit. They played just one seamless game and I thought your veterans led the way. (Linas) Kleiza was particularly outstanding but the movement was outstanding and Martynas (Pocius) played a great game. We had to make some big plays to win. So far in the tournament things have come easy to us because we’ve been hitting so many shots and today because of the defense sometimes I think we passed up on shots because of guys hitting so many you want to see them hit again instead of taking your shot. We can play better but we played against a terrific team today. We had 17 steals that didn’t translate to the number of points that they should. Usually we get some momentum but today we got steals but not the points. It showed great resolve on their part that when they did make a mistake they recovered quickly and didn’t have their head down. We beat an outstanding team today and had a lot of game pressure on us and we came through and I am proud of them for doing that.
Can you talk about the role LeBron James played in the fourth quarter?
Well he took the game over I thought. For those people that say he doesn’t produce at the end of ball games, he always produces for us at the end of ballgames. He was terrific and really made the plays that needed to be made both offensively and defensively in the last three minutes. You can’t practice those situations even if you put them up on the scoreboard in practice but it is not the same game pressure. To see him respond to that in this setting is one of the great positives from the game.
How much value can a tough game like this be going forward? How bothered were you by the shooting percentage of Lithuania?
There is another team out there. The other team has a great basketball tradition with an outstanding coach. They have been in big games before and they are not intimidated by us. We need to play better defense there is no question about it. They played really well on offense. The game itself is incredibly important for us. Not only did we win but we were put in a position where every possession counted. We are not usually in that type of game. We are going to be in those games if we want to win the gold medal. This week is a difficult week for pool play. When you get to this point you want to already be in the medal round, it takes a long time. We can be more ready to play then we were, but overall it was a really good game for us. Winning like we did was terrific for us because everyone of our guys wanted the ball and they produced when they got it. So that was a good thing.
Is there a balance between sharing the ball and taking your shots?
I think we overpass at times but sometimes camaraderie can be a negative. We have great spirit and great togetherness. You saw how happy they were when Carmelo (Anthony) was hitting his shots or when Kevin (Durant) is on. They almost want those two guys to get the ball and shoot. Sometimes I think they are not shooting in their normal flow, but they played really good defense too. I told our guys a number of times when they came to the bench to shoot. Shoot their shots. Maybe a game like this will help us move to that. We scored 99 points and we missed a lot of free throws, we can play better offensively and we can play better defensively. There is no question about it.
You spoke highly of team camaraderie. What kind of talk did you hear late in the game from your team?
Good stuff. No finger pointing and really positive talk. That is why they played that way at the end. They didn’t want to lose. You think you have that but when you see it happening, it is a really good thing. They hung in there really well. Timeouts were good and nothing negative at all. Overall it was really positive. For LeBron to say “I got it.” Some guys talk with their body and their actions and I think he did that. Basically he wouldn’t give the ball up on top. I think he was kind of saying that.
Was the lack of sharpness related to not practicing?
Since we started this journey it comes after the long NBA season with four of our guys in the NBA Finals. There is a physical, mental and emotional price you pay for that. What we have tried to do along the way is pace them and be ready to sprint next week. It does not mean we have not played well. We have played pretty well but this is the week before the week. You have a game like we did, playing 10 PM at night hitting every shot, and then you play again against an outstanding team. Lithuania is good. The tradition they have for basketball is outstanding and he is one of the best coaches. I feel what we are doing is the right thing and we will go forward trying to pick it up a little bit now as we go into this next week.
Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
On the Game:
They did a great job executing. Their bigs made great plays and their guards made big shots. They took advantage of our activity by spacing us out. For us offensively they did a good job of packing it in. It was kind of a “muck” kind of game because there was a lot of fouls going on. The game kind of got mucked up a little bit and slowed us down a little bit. They played well.
What were your thoughts on LeBron at the end?
He got into a good rhythm. We just keep going to him. He had a great mismatch on him. He kept attacking and getting to the basket and hitting down shots.
Are you happy with how the team dealt with being down late in the game?
We know how we would respond in that type of situation. Everybody pretty much kept a calm and a level head. We just went out there played our game and corrected some things defensively that they took advantage of.
Were you surprised with how well Lithuania played?
We knew that they were a very good team. We played them in 2008 and they were very good as well. We knew coming in that it was going to be a fight.
Do you think the team attempted too many 3-pointers?
I don’t think so. We probably have to hit the offensive boards a little bit more instead of sitting and watching shots going up. We got open looks and we need to take them. We just have to get to the glass a little bit better.
Was it difficult to adjust to a different game that was much slower than against Nigeria?
I wouldn’t say it was difficult. I think they played very well. The game slowed down, which allowed them to stay in the game and kept us from getting out in transitions and building up the momentum we like to build.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Can you talk about the tough game tonight?
Not every game is going to be easy. This team is very well coached and they played hard. Our guys did a great job responding.
Does having a test like that help going forward?
Yes we did. I am glad that we passed it. We got down in the fourth but we fought back and made big plays on defense and got a very good win.
Did you ever have any doubts as the game moved along?
No. I never doubted. We have so many good players and so many good fourth quarter players and guys stepped up.
What were your thoughts on Chris Paul’s performance?
He has the ball in his hands a lot and he can make plays for himself and everyone else. He did a really great job.
What were your thoughts on Lithuania?
We got some good competition. Lithuania is very good team they are coached really well and they pushed us.
There were a lot of fouls in the third quarter. Did it hamper the flow of the game?
It’s hard to get a rhythm when there’s a lot of fouls in the third quarter. At the end of the day you still need to get stops and make buckets at the end
It has to be good for the team to be tested like that?
For us as competitors, we want to have a test games. We feel like any team can be beaten in this tournament if you don’t’ come out and prepare the right way or if you don’t play the right way you can be beaten. Lithuania gave us a great game.
Did you feel the need to take over in the fourth quarter?
I feel like it was my time to step up offensively. I have kind of been doing everything else, which I am ok with. I am here to do the little things, whatever the team needs in Coach K’s perspective. Like I told you guys I can also score. I am blessed and happy I was able to make a few buckets down the stretch.
Do you think you came out flat following your last game?
I don’t think we were flat. I think we played a better team first of all, a well-coached team, and a team that has been in the Olympics time after time. They are not afraid of the light. It is not about being flat, I think we played well, we can talk a little better defensively because we gave up a lot of layups which is something we don’t want to do. For the most part I don’t think we played flat. It was a good game between two teams.
Was it tough to change from an easy win to such tough competition?
No, we are used to playing a game back-to-back-to-backs this past season. If you have a blowout one day, you know you have another game tomorrow and you approach every game as its own and we did that today.
How would you assess your team chemistry to this point?
I think it’s great. I think our camaraderie is really good; our team chemistry is really good. Facing some adversity like this tonight, being down in the fourth quarter, a lot of teams would not have been able to get through that no matter what type of talent you have, but we were communicating throughout the game during timeouts and on the floor.
Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
How has it been playing with these guys?
It has been great. They make the game easy. Really when I got to the Olympics after the Spain game I really got a chance to play and I have been taking advantage of it. Carmelo and LeBron have been playing really well and everybody throughout our lineup has stepped up and played good games.
You came in the third quarter and had a stretch where you really helped out. Can you talk about that?
I just wanted to come in and be a spark for us. I don’t remember a time in my career when I came in and missed two sets of free throws in a row. I just wanted to change the game from an energy standpoint. We needed to get scrappy buckets like that. We needed to tip balls out, rebound the ball and I think I was one of the leading rebounders today. I thought I did a good job out there.
As a team you have played well offensively. During the game you had a pretty decent look and passed up to Carmelo. Can you talk about the decision to pass and decision to shoot?
I will pass the shot up for a better shot and Carmelo has been scoring at a high clip. He had an undersized guy on him, so he was able to get to the bucket and score. I was happy with the decision I made and those are the kind of plays that everyone on this team looks for.
How do you handle the pressure to win every game?
Today was good test for us. I think Lithuania has a lot of great players on their team, they are well coached. They took advantage of some of the things we we’re doing on the defensive end. They played a good game against us. We just had guys that made big plays down the stretch.
What would the reaction have been back home had you lost today?
Everyone would have said we were not going to win the gold medal but we know that we have discipline to lock down on defense and the ability to make big shots in the fourth quarter or the last five or six minutes. Lithuania played us great and they are going to be a medal contender. We just want to keep fighting and doing what we can to get better because when the medal rounds hit if we lose a game we are out.
On the Game:
It was a great game. Both teams really came out and played well. I give a lot of credit to Lithuania. They were executing their offense. Definitely the toughest game we have had since we been here.
Was there a concern in the fourth quarter when you fell behind?
You are always concerned because you are a competitor and you want to win. That is a good team we played right there. We knew that coming in so it’s always a great game when you play against Lithuania. Luckily we defended and got some stops down the stretch, guys made a few big plays. We knew this was going to be a dog fight and those guys played an unbelievable game and they played really hard.
Why were they so hard to contain?
They made a lot of shots. They just executed their offense, they set the ball screens and they rolled. Darius Songaila did a great job getting into the paint and we need to do to better job of communicating defensively. We need to talk better and we know that.
Were you surprised that you had trouble containing them?
It happens. Coach stayed on us and I’m sure we will watch film. It is not so much how bad we were. I think the credit goes to them. They played really well and like I keep saying that is a good team we played tonight and we will probably see them again
You got a big rebound late in the game. Can you describe how the play unfolded?
I just had a Russell Westbrook moment. I saw where I was and when I was in college I used to get in trouble for getting offensive rebounds but coach always tells us to crash the boards and I saw an opportunity and luckily the ball came off right where I was.
Are international players more inclined to tip ball rather them grabbing the rebounds?
I don’t know. I usually don’t get to many rebounds. Tyson tips it lot but I am usually the one running the ball down if someone does tip it.
Did you guys fall in love with the outside shots tonight?
I don’t think we fell in love with it. We had alot of good looks. A lot of shots went in and out. One of the things Coach told us when we came to the bench was keep shooting your shots and that’s what we have to do. When I did hit that offensive rebound, D-Will (Deron Williams) hit a big one. With the amount of the talent we have on our team a lot of times we do pass up good shots but the one thing we need to keep doing is shooting the ball.
Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets)
Why was Lithuania so hard to guard, especially in the first half?
They’re a good team. They’ve been together for several years. They played well together and they execute to death. They’re well-coached. They came out with a good game plan. We got a little stretched out on the floor and they got confidence. Our defense wasn’t like it’s been in the past.
How effective is the small group out there?
We become a little quicker, a little more athletic (when we go small). We’re able to get after them and pressure a little bit more and create some more havoc out there on the floor.
People will say it’s good to get a test but you didn’t need that good of a test, did you?
It was a little too close for comfort. It is good to have games like this where it seems like not everything is going right for us and we were able to battle through it, play through it, hunker down on the defensive end and make plays down the stretch. LeBron was amazing down the stretch, definitely opened the game up for us.
LeBron seemed to find some creases late in the game?
Yeah, they were definitely clogging up the lane and he was being a little passive but the fourth quarter came and he saw us struggling and he took over.
Thoughts on Argentina?
We’ve already played them once in the friendly game and had a good test. They’re probably better now than they were then and so are we. It’ll be a great matchup for us, another great test to see where we are at … the last game before the real fun stuff.
How encouraging was it that you could hang your hat on defense to get through some rough patches?
We shot it the other day about as good as you can shoot the ball and today we shot it about as bad as you can shoot the ball. Our defense was definitely there at the end for us, it’s what saved us. It’s what we try to take pride in and hang our hat on.
Does this team have another gear that can make them even better?
Yeah, I think we can play a lot better than we did today. Not to take anything away from Lithuania because they played really well and battled us the whole game. We can definitely play better than we did today.