Lithuania stunned the United States in FIBA World Cup play on Sunday, but the Americans nonetheless earned a spot in the basketball tournament in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Team USA was a 15 1/2-point favorite against the Lithuanians, who held on to a 54-37 halftime lead to win in Manila, Philippines.
The Americans outscored Lithuania 28-17 in the third quarter but couldn’t make up the six-point deficit in the fourth.
Anthony Edwards led Team USA (4-1) with 35 points on 14-of-26 shooting in 29 minutes. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges contributed 14 points, and Brandon Ingram scored 10.
Vaidas Kariniauskas scored 15 points for Lithuania (5-0), while Mindaugas Kuzminskas had 14 points and Jonas Valanciunas contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.
Losses by Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic mean the United States and Canada will finish the as the top two teams from the Americas regions, qualifying them for Paris.
“It doesn’t ease the pain of the loss that we had tonight for us, but for USA Basketball, it’s a good thing to not have to go through any qualifying, anything further, you don’t have to worry about anything else,” coach Steve Kerr said of guaranteeing a spot in Paris, per The Athletic. “But to be honest, I’m not worried about the Olympics. I’m worried about this. We want to win the World Cup, and that’s our focus.”
If the Americans are to win the World Cup, they’ll have to beat their next opponent, Italy (4-1), in the first game of the knockout round on Tuesday, also in Manila.
– Field Level Media