Flashback: 1996 USA Men's Olympic Team Rolls Over Lithuania 104-82, Improves to 3-0
Led by Charles Barkley's 16 points and team high five rebounds, the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team rolled to a 104-82 victory over Lithuania in front of an Olympic men's basketball record crowd of 31,430 at the Georgia Dome on July 24, 1996. The win improved the United States' record to 3-0 in preliminary pool competition, while dropping Lithuania's record to 1-2.
"I thought our players came our aggressive. What we are trying to do from here on out, is trying to keep the same unit on the court a little longer and move one guy into that unit instead of two or three. I think that it will allow them to get a little bit better rhythm," remarked U.S. Olympic head coach Lenny Wilkens. "The guys came out in the second half very aggressive. They stayed up in the passing lanes and we did a better job switching and that makes a huge difference."
“No matter how famous and successful you are, everyone in their right mind has watched the Olympics growing up,” said Charles Barkley, who scored a team-high 16 points. “Just the opening ceremonies and for me, the chance to meet Bishop Tutu yesterday in practice has made my whole Olympic experience.”
Lithuania scored first and led or was tied with the U.S. for most of the game's first four minutes. Lithuania held a 10-8 lead 15:55 to go in the half, but 15 seconds later, Reggie Miller hit a 3-point field goal to spark a 7-0 USA scoring run as the USA grabbed a lead which it would never relinquish.
The U.S. led 32-23 with 7:51 to play in the first half, however, Lithuania, which was playing without the services of NBA guard Sarunas Marciulionis, fought back to tie the game 40-40 with 3:04 to go in the half. But the United States closed out the first half with a 10-2 offensive run to give the U.S. a 50-42 advantage at halftime.
Behind a combined 11 points from Charles Barkley and Gary Payton, the USA opened the second half with a 15-7 scoring run that cushioned its lead to 65-49 with 15:13 left in the game. Lithuania closed the gap to 10 points, 65-55, with 13:49 remaining, but that was as close as they would come as the USA steadily pulled away and went on to lead by as much as 23 points before closing out the game with the 22 point, 104-82, victory.
The U.S. shot 55.5% (36-66 FGs) from the floor and 45.0% (9-20 3-pt. FGs) from 3-point, but struggled with its free throws, hitting just 57.5% (23-40 FTs) from the charity stripe. Lithuania converted on 88.9% (16-18 FTs) of its tries from the line and 49.1 (28-57 FGs) from the field.
The U.S. outrebounded Lithuania by a slim margin of 33-28, however, the Americans' defense forced 22 opponent turnovers compared to nine U.S. turnovers.
U.S. forward Karl Malone suffered a cut on the bottom of his little finger on his right hand and required seven stitches. Malone's injury occurred with 2:45 to play in the game when he hit the rim with his hand after blocking a shot. Malone is expected to play in the USA's next game against China on Friday.
In addition to Barkley's 16 points, the USA's offense was aided by Miller and Malone, who each scored 14 points and Scottie Pippen who added 13 points and four rebounds. Guards Payton and John Stockton each passed off for four of the United States' 28 assists, and Grant Hill, who scored nine points on the night, recorded five steals.
Gintaras Einikis scored a game high 21 points and added seven rebounds for Lithuania.
“I think it is definitely worth it to keep basketball superiority in the United States,” Barkley added. “I think you have to be very realistic; college kids can't win the gold medal anymore. (Arvydas) Sabonis is better than any college player in the country today. Marciulionis is the same way. (Arturas) Karnisovas is a great player. You've got Vlade Divac. These guys are just better than college players. Especially now with all the college players going pro.”