USA Jumps Lithuania Early and Rolls on to a 120-84 Victory
For all the doubters, Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) showed he is back in full all-star form after tallying a game best 19 points, while U.S. center Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) added 17 points and the USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team (3-0) stormed to a convincing start-to-finish 120-84 victory over Lithuania (0-1) Friday night in Macao, China. It was the third straight win for the USA Team, and the second in as many nights of action in the USA Basketball International Challenge.
"I’m healthy again, as healthy as I’ve been in two years and I’m excited not only about this opportunity, but I’m excited about the rest of my career because now I know what it takes, and the weight room has become my best friend. Hard work has got me here,” said Wade, who made 7-of-9 shots and added four assists and three rebounds.
The Americans set the tone on this one right from the opening tip that led to a LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) dunk.
With the game just 2:37 old, the U.S. had opened up a 10-point lead, 12-2, and the USA lead never fell below double digits in the first half and was only reduced to nine on one occasion in the third quarter.
‘We made it a priority early to get Dwight (Howard) involved and he did a great job of dominating inside, not just with his offense but defensively too,’ said USA mentor Mike Krzyzewski. ‘I thought our defense set the tone for the game and Dwight’s defense anchoring our defense was key.’
Howard scored six of the USA’s first eight points and with 7:23 left in the opening stanza the U.S. had sprinted to a 12-2 lead.
The USA advantage quickly reached 20 after Howard made one of two free throws to push the score to 25-5 with 3:06 left in the quarter, and after one period the Americans were up handedly, 31-15.
Lithuania refused to fold and twice managed to cut the deficit to 13 points, but each time it did, the USA answered in spectacular fashion and at the intermission the U.S. owned a 17-point lead, 56-39.
Lithuania finally found the range on its 3-point shooting and after draining its first four 3-balls of the third quarter, the USA’s advantage had been cut to nine, 61-52.
Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) answered at the other end with a traditional 3-point play to end the third quarter rally and push the U.S. lead back into double-digits, 64-52.
Turning back to its defense, the Americans sealed the game with a 16-3 offensive run during which Anthony poured in six points and had highlight passes to two teammates for crowd pleasing dunks.
Playing in front of another CotaiArena sellout crowd of 11,885, of the USA’s 48 made baskets, 34 were assisted. The U.S., which outscored Lithuania in fast break points 29-3, forced Lithuania into 23 turnovers.
The USA scoring was also aided by Michael Redd’s (Milwaukee Bucks) 16 points that came off 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point, James finished with 15 points, Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) tossed in 13 points and Anthony finished with 11 points. Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets) and Deron Williams (Utah Jazz) accounted for seven assists each.
Lithuania was paced by Roimantas Kaukenas’ 17 points.
“I think we played really well tonight because we had so much respect for Lithuania, who I think can be a medal round winner,” said USA mentor Mike Krzuzewski.Serving as 2008 USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University and Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, New York Knicks head mentor Mike D’Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.