Saturday, August 21, 2010

Team USA Eurotour- First Up: Lithuania

Team USA's 13 finalists for the 2010 FIBA World Championship basketball team have been practicing in Madrid the last few days in preparation for back to back games against Lithuania and the defending FIBA world champion Spanish team.

They'll play a tough Lithuanian squad later today as they continue working to get their collective act together before the FIBA Worlds get started on August 28.

Like the USA, Lithuania has a serious love for basketball. The Baltic nation is hosting the European championships next year and it's the country's number one sport.

Coach Kestutis Kemzura is still trying to determine who will be the final 12 men on the roster representing Lithuanian b-ball honor and is playing with 14 men for now.

They are planning to take to the FIBA Worlds a younger squad built around the talents of the Toronto Raptors Linas Kleiza and San Antonio Spurs draftee Martynas Gecevicius.

I'm sure Coach K and his staff is reminding Team USA that Lithuania is no basketball pushover despite our 5-1 record in official international competition and the 2-0 exhibition record in games against them.

Lithuania is ranked Number 6 in the FIBA rankings (the USA is Number 2 behind Argentina) and the last time we faced them in international competition was the bronze medal game of the 2004 Athens Olympics that the USA won 104-96.

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The one loss versus Lithuania? A stunning 94-90 defeat that came eight days before that bronze medal game victory in 2004 Olympic preliminary round play.

Lithuania also gave Team USA a major scare in the 2000 Sydney Olympic semifinals. The USA escaped to the gold medal game with a narrow 85-83 win after Sarunas Jasikevicius missed a desperation three pointer at the buzzer.

So this will be an interesting challenge for Team USA. If this team is on track to win its first FIBA Worlds gold medal since 1994, we'll get to see on this Eurotour if they can handle the enhanced competition that will be opposing them every step of the way.

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