LeBron James has had a great four months. How many players have done what James has the chance to do before? Let’s recap what James has accomplished in the last four months: NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP and NBA Champion. He also put Team USA in prime position to win the Gold Medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
If you knew Lithuania’s basketball history, you knew they weren’t going to go quietly when they faced the Americans yesterday. They are good shooters, scrappy and tough. They shot 58.5% from the field yesterday and outscored the Americans in two of the four quarters.
But if it wasn’t for James, Team USA would have been in serious trouble late in the fourth quarter. After a Deron Williams layup put Team USA up 87-84 with 4:30 left, Darius Songalia came right back and made a two-point shot in the lane, pulling Lithuania back to within one point at 87-86.
That’s when LeBron took over. After scoring 11 points through the first three quarters, James drained a three-point basket to give Team USA a four point lead. Chris Paul came up with a steal on the next possession and LeBron finished at the other end with a slam dunk. A few possessions later, he made another shot inside the paint to put Team USA up nine points. After Lithuania scored, James answered with another basket to put the game on ice. In the last four minutes of the game, James scored nine points to close the game. Closing games used to not be his forte. In the past, he would score when he needed to be, but since he joined the Miami Heat, James would rather defer to Dwyane Wade when the game was hanging-in-the-balance. But since the playoffs began, James has done nothing but dominate in the fourth quarter. And with the game on the line yesterday, he sensed that his team needed him and, truthfully, they did.
He answered the bell. His final stat-line read: 20 points (9-14 FG), five rebounds, one block, and three steals in 34 minutes of playing time. He didn’t record an assist yesterday, but the team only recorded a total of 13 assists, after racking up 41 assists against Nigeria. Team USA didn’t shoot the remotely as well as they did against Nigeria either.
I have never been a big fan of LeBron. I like watching him play, but I am always rooting for him to lose. That being said, I really like that he is starting to become the “main” guy. I think he finally has the confidence that he lacked in previous years. It’s been a joy to watch him play this season and I look forward to watching him play this coming year. That doesn’t mean I am rooting for him though.
Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points and Kevin Durant scored 16 to compliment James. Deron Williams added 12, but shot only 4-12 from the field. As a team, the US shot 10-30 from three-point land. And all those misses kept Lithuania in the game just as much as the poor defense that Team USA played.
Team USA wraps up pool play tomorrow when they play Argentina.