All Raptors' fans' eyes were on this one, at least on the stat-sheets (#RudyGay) if not game itself since it was going on smack in the middle of the day. I'll cut the suspense right off the bat -- Raptors fans wouldn't have enjoyed this game very much. DeMar DeRozan is a deep rotation/garbage time player on a stacked USA D-level team, and so he didn't see much of the court until late in the game. Jonas Valanciunas, as you can probably guess by looking at the scoreline, didn't have himself a game to remember. But more on him later; For now, let's dive quickly into what went on in the game.
The US has a tendency to let teams hang around early in games, and today was no different. For most of the first half, Lithuania was able to stay within 10 points. The game had been extremely sloppy on both ends to that point, with both teams drawing plenty of ticky-tack fouls that killed the flow. The first half was one of the weirdest spells of basketball I've seen in my life. Both teams were fouling a ton, but also living in the transition game. With James Harden and Stephen Curry in foul trouble, Klay Thompson was doing a terrific job of setting up the US offence. He finished the game with 16 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists on very efficient 7/12 shooting. The bigs on both sides were struggling to keep up with the fast paced nature of the game. Anthony Davis isn't a typical big, however, and after seeing him swat away two JV shot attempts, I'm even more frightened of how good he's going to end up being. Lithuania was actually doing a fine job on offence in the first half, and troubled the American guards in transition and in pick and rolls. They had to be very satisfied going into the break with only an 8 point deficit.
The second half was a completely different story. The US put up a 12-0 run in about three minutes to open their lead to 20, and effectively end this game early. James Harden got his shot going, and Lithuania started piling up turnovers in an effort to quickly close the deficit. Of course all of that plays directly into the US' hands, as their athleticism will overwhelm most teams if given the opportunity to run in transition. After demoralizing Lithuania in the 3rd quarter, the US cruised through the 4th to take a comfortable 28 point victory.
Statline: 0 pts, 0 rebs, 1 ast, 8 mins.
Not much to note from DeMar in this game. He did have a sweet dish to Steph Curry for 3, but that was about it when it comes to his contribution on the stat sheet. DeMar played 8 minutes, but I think he's well aware that he's supposed to not force the issue on offence when he gets time on the court. As long as he comes out of this tournament healthy, I'm fine with it.
Statline: 15 pts, 2/5 FGs, 11/13 FTs, 7 rebs, -17. Full boxscore
Truth be told, the box score flatters Valanciunas. He was completely unable to get into the flow of his teams offence since the game was too fast-paced to really suit his back-to-the-basket arsenal. He only attempted 4 shots in the first half and 1 in the second. He got to the line quite a bit, but it didn't seem deliberate and dominant. It wasn't as though he was being calculated and methodical in how he attacked the US' defence. It was more a case of him getting the ball with the shot clock winding down and getting bailed out with a foul call due to his aggressiveness. In all, not the best game by Valanciunas, but that's not all that surprising.
The main talking point in this game was in fact a little clash between DeMarcus Cousins and Valanciunas. See below:
— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) September 11, 2014
Yikes. Now, it looks more like JV was startled than frightened of Cousins, as he's been more than willing to mix it up physically in the past. Anyway, I'm willing to give JV the benefit of the doubt here. However, as the boss man Alex (a.k.a. steven lebron) points out, this isn't the first time a Raptor has had Shook syndrome.
Add in the Mike Tyson blow up on CP24's Nathan Downer, and it hasn't been a good week for Toronto-associated acts dealing with colourful characters. In fact, watch those on loop with me to this track. You're welcome, people.
Anyway, for JV and Lithuania, they get a chance to salvage a medal out of this tournament when they face the loser of Serbia-France on Saturday. For the US, the dream match-up with Spain was spoiled by France, but we'll keep an eye on the Gold Medal game on Sunday. We'll close it out with this interview with DeRozan on today's game and the upcoming Gold Medal Final:
DeMar DeRozan "We can't take nobody lightly" (via Emmet Ryan).
What do you guys make of all of this?