Team USA’s Unprecedented Setback
The loss marked a significant moment for the U.S. team, as it was their first defeat in 10 games throughout the summer, including five exhibition matches leading up to the Basketball World Cup.
Lithuania’s Stunning Victory
Despite this loss, the U.S. remains determined to compete in the upcoming Paris Olympics next summer. However, Lithuania had other plans on a fateful Sunday night when they managed to pull off a remarkable upset at the Basketball World Cup.
Lithuania Emerges Victorious
Vaidas Kariniauskas emerged as Lithuania’s standout player with 15 points, while Mindaugas Kuzminskas added 14, securing a 110-104 victory over the U.S. in a second-round game at the World Cup.
A Loss with Silver Lining
This unexpected loss, the first for the U.S. this summer, including the exhibition games leading up to the World Cup, coincided with the Americans officially securing their place in the Paris Olympics.
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Olympic Hopes and Challenges Ahead
Surprisingly, this defeat may not hinder the U.S.’s chances in the World Cup medal race. The Americans are set to participate in a quarterfinal game on Tuesday, which marks the commencement of the knockout stage for the final eight teams. A win on Tuesday, followed by victories on Thursday and Sunday, could still lead to the Americans claiming the gold medal.
Nevertheless, this outcome was a shock, especially considering the U.S. team was heavily favored for gold. Anthony Edwards showcased his talent by leading the U.S. with 35 points, marking his highest-scoring summer performance, while Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges each contributed 14 points.
A History of Rivalry
This victory marked yet another memorable encounter against USA Basketball for Lithuania, highlighting their ability to challenge the American team. Lithuania’s history against the U.S. includes a narrow nine-point loss in a preliminary game at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a thrilling two-point victory in the semifinals, and various other competitive encounters in international basketball competitions.
A Thrilling Matchup
Although the game held little significance for medal hopes, as both teams had already secured spots in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, it was a captivating match. Lithuania made a strong start by sinking their first nine 3-pointers, amassing a 21-point lead early on. In the third quarter, the U.S. clinched their Paris Olympics berth when Serbia secured a victory over the Dominican Republic, ensuring an automatic Olympic spot for the Americans.
The U.S. Comeback
Around the time Serbia secured their win, the U.S. initiated a remarkable comeback. In just 4 minutes and 16 seconds of the third quarter, the Americans narrowed a 17-point halftime deficit to four points, igniting their resurgence. Lithuania held a 71-65 lead going into the final 10 minutes but never trailed again.
Olympic Dreams and Qualification
The U.S. had already secured an automatic berth into the Paris Olympics as one of the top two finishers from the Americas Region at the Basketball World Cup. Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, they were guaranteed a place in the World Cup quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, vying to join the U.S. in the quarterfinals, all suffered defeats on Sunday, concluding their World Cup journey.
The Path to Olympic Competition
With only Canada remaining in the tournament from the Americas region and their victory still pending on Sunday night, there was no scenario in which the U.S. could be surpassed by two teams from their territory in the final World Cup standings.
Olympic Qualification and Beyond
The Olympic men’s basketball tournament will feature 12 nations, with France securing a spot as the host nation. Seven teams, including Australia, South Sudan, Japan, and the U.S., have earned automatic bids based on their World Cup performance. The top two teams from the Americas Europe, and the top team from Africa, Asia, and Oceania will also secure Olympic spots. It’s worth noting that the U.S. claimed Olympic gold in men’s basketball at the Tokyo Games two summers ago.