LeBron James scores nine of his 20 points in the final four minutes of Saturday’s game vs. Lithuania to help the Americans avoid a stunning upset in the London Olympics.
LONDON — Two of the key things to know about Saturday, Day 8 of the London Olympics:
--- LeBron and Co. pushed in U.S. hoops win over Lithuania.
--- Britannia you rock! An Olympic day to remember for the hosts.
When the moment arrived, the Americans responded.
They’re still unbeaten, but no longer untested.
Pushed to the max by a fearless Lithuanian team smelling a world-shaking Olympic upset, the U.S. collection of basketball superstars united as one.
And LeBron James led the way.
Two days after running and gunning to a record-shattering 83-point win, the U.S. was forced to play a possession-for-possession game in the fourth quarter in a 99-94 win over Lithuania.
The Americans were in serious trouble until James — in his third Olympics — stepped up in the closing minutes.
“It was like LeBron said, ‘I got this, I’m doing this,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
James scored 9 his 20 points in the final four minutes for the U.S. (4-0), which had looked nearly invincible in thrashing Nigeria 156-73 on Thursday night while breaking several records. But the Americans were reminded that the path to a gold medal is loaded with traps and Lithuania nearly sprang one.
“You want to get tested,” James said. “The best teams want to be tested. We love the competition. We’ve got some of the greatest competitors in our league, in this world, so you want to have a game where you feel like you were tested, and we had that today.”
And then some.
The U.S. trailed by two points with under six minutes left before using a 15-4 run to put away Lithuania (1-3), which was seeking to duplicate its stunning win over the Americans in 2004 win at Athens, when the U.S. program dropped to its low point after decades of dominance.
However, James, who was an Olympic rookie eight years ago, refused to allow it.
The reigning MVP and a recently crowned NBA champion knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and after Paul stole the inbounds pass, James took a feed down the right side and delivered one of his trademark dunks, a basket that brought the American players off the bench and seemed to restore world basketball order.
Carmelo Anthony added 20 points, Kevin Durant 16 and Chris Paul added seven rebounds, six assists and four of the U.S. team’s 17 steals. After making a record 29 3-pointers in their epic win over Nigeria, the Americans missed 23 of 33 attempts behind the arc and too often settled for outside shots.
The U.S. wasn’t sharp on defense either as Lithuania ran a high pick-and-roll to death that the Americans never really figured out how to stop.
“We can play better offensively and defensively, no questions about that,” Krzyzewski said.
It didn’t help that the U.S. also missed 12 free throws, with Kevin Love going 3 of 8.
“Shaq on the free-throw line today,” Love posted on his Twitter page, comparing himself to Shaquille O’Neal. “My bad USA. Good win for us. Needed a game like that.”
Linas Kleiza scored 25 points and Martynas Pocius, who played for Krzyzewski at Duke, had 14 for Lithuania, the longtime hoop power with three Olympic bronze medals on its resume.
Krzyzewski figured his team would be challenged sooner or later and was not at all surprised the first real conflict came against Lithuania.
“These guys are really good,” he said. “We needed this.”
No, this wasn’t easy, and that may be good in the long run for the Americans, who couldn’t have helped but feel a little overconfident after Thursday’s game when they made 29 3-pointers, scored 78 points in both halves and put on a breathtaking 40-minute display of international basketball.
Lithuania had lost to Nigeria last month in a qualifying tournament, but that hardly mattered once the ball went in the air.
“It’s always a great game when we play against Lithuania,” Paul said. “We knew this was gonna be a dog fight and those guys played an unbelievable, unbelievable game.”
With a roster featuring Kleiza, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, and several players who played collegiately in the U.S., Lithuania, went right at the Americans’ star-studded crew from the start.
In fact, Lithuania outrebounded the U.S. 42-37 and for long stretches it was the sharper team on the floor. Lithuania also shot an impressive 58 percent (38 for 65) from the field. But with a bench like no other, the U.S. simply wore Lithuania down in the fourth quarter, forcing several turnovers to swing the game in the final minutes.
After Russia upset Spain 77-74 in the morning session to win Group B, Russia’s Andrei Kirilenko said there isn’t any team that can’t be beat.
“One night you can have 156 points, and a different night the ball could start missing,” he said.
The words seemed prophetic as the Americans never found its collective touch, never led by more than 12 and were lucky Lithuania misfired on some big shots in the fourth.
Krzyzewski gave his team Friday off, canceling practice to rest players coming off a grueling NBA schedule and allow them a chance to get out and to other events and root on their Olympic teammates. The day off may have cost the Americans a little of their edge as they came out somewhat sloppy.
With the medal round approaching quickly, the Americans aren’t likely to skip another day at the gym.
“We can be more ready to play than we were,” Krzyzewski said. “But overall this was a really good game for us. Winning like we did was terrific for us.”
There will be better — and bigger — ones ahead.
Once preliminary play ends, it’s on to the knockout round, where one slip can crush dreams of gold.
The pressure will intensify. The stakes will rise.
Lithuania was only a warmup, but after three easy games, the U.S. needed a game where losing was possible.
“You’d like to win every game by 30 points, light up the cigar or put your feet up,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re better off now, now that we’re through it.”
Britain’s banner day stretched from Dorney Lake to Olympic Stadium, and Team GB sent a charge through the capacity crowd with a quick series of victories.
The victors: Jessica Ennis in heptathlon; Greg Rutherford in men’s long jump; and Mo Farah in the men’s 10,000 meters. Three gold medals in about one hour for the host country — and the capper to a big British surge.
The hosts pulled in two more golds on the final day of the Olympic regatta, and another in women’s pursuit at the London Velodrome.
Two-time gold medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor beat the Netherlands in straight sets to advance to the tournament quarterfinals.
The Americans topped Marleen van Iersel and Sanne Keizer 21-13, 21-12.
Reigning world champions Emanuel and Alison edged Germany 21-16, 21-14 to advance to the men’s quarters. The Brazilians, the top-seeded team at the London Games, eliminated Jonathan Erdmann and Kay Matysik.
Nicola Spirig of Switzerland won the gold medal in a photo finish with a Swedish challenger at the Olympic triathlon. The end of the race was so close that both women celebrated after crossing the line.
Spirig held off Lisa Norden to claim gold in 1 hour, 59.48 seconds. The runners were given the same time, and Spirig was declared the winner after a few minutes of uncertainty.
Erin Densham of Australia took bronze on the course through Hyde Park in central London in 1:59.50.
Thousands of spectators lined the route. Fans do not need tickets to watch triathlon events at the London Games.
The U.S. men’s team blew a two-set lead and lost to Russia in five, snapping an 11-match winning streak in Olympic play.
Maxim Mikhaylov scored 27 points for No. 2 Russia in the 27-29, 19-25, 26-24, 25-16, 15-8 victory. Sergey Tetyukhin spiked for match point.
Brazil, Germany, Poland, Argentina and Italy also won.
The British boxing team is on a remarkable roll at its home Olympics, and that’s just one reason the Indian team is furious.
Second-seeded light welterweight Tom Stalker beat India’s Manoj Kumar 20-16 for the 10th British win in 11 fights in London, moving six boxers to the brink of medal qualification.
Although Stalker and Kumar appeared to be evenly matched, Kumar and his coaching staff criticized the judges and the tournament after the fifth loss for a seven-man team that arrived in London hoping to add to its single Olympic boxing medal.
India did get a nice fight from light flyweight Devendro Laishram, who posted a 16-11 upset of fourth-seeded Serdamba Purevdorj of Mongolia.
Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias upset top-seeded Brazilian light welterweight Everton Dos Santos, while top-seeded light heavyweight Julio La Cruz of Cuba overwhelmed Jordan’s Ihab Almatbouli.
China’s Wu Mingxia cruised into the 3-meter springboard final after qualifying in the top spot during the Olympic semifinals.
Wu, who is seeking her record-tying sixth Olympic diving medal, totaled 394.400 points in the five rounds, giving her a lead of 32.30 points over second-place Tania Cagnotto of Italy, who had 362.100.
Wu already owns three gold medals in 3-meter synchro, as well as one silver and one bronze. One more would tie her with retired Chinese star Guo Jingjing, as well as give China its fifth diving gold of the London Games.
Cassidy Krug of the U.S. was fifth at 345.600 in her first Olympics. Her teammate, Christina Loukas, advanced to Sunday’s final in sixth at 339.750.
American Jamie Lynn Gray won the gold medal in women’s 50-meter three-position rifle shooting, setting two Olympic records along the way.
Gray clinched gold on her final shot with a 10.8 — just 0.1 off a perfect score.
Ivana Maksimovic of Serbia won the silver, and Adela Sykorova of the Czech Republic was third.
Italy’s Jessica Rossi won the gold medal in women’s trap shooting, missing just one of 100 shots to set a world record. Her lone miss came on the 18th shot of the 25-shot final.
Zuzana Stefecekova eventually won the silver in a shoot-off, topping Delphine Reau of France.
Vanja Udovicic scored three goals and Serbia beat the United States 11-6 in the men’s tournament.
It was the first loss of the London Games for the Americans, who will face three-time defending champion Hungary in their last group game.
Croatia, Montenegro, Spain, Italy and Hungary also won.
South Korea topped host Britain 5-4 in a penalty shootout to advance to the semifinals of the men’s tournament.
Ki Sung-yueng hit the winning penalty after Daniel Sturridge missed Britain’s fifth spot kick. The game was tied at 1 after regulation and extra time.
South Korea moves on to face Brazil, which beat Honduras in the quarterfinals. Japan and Mexico play in the other semifinal.
Britain is dominating the Olympic cycling slate.
The women’s pursuit team won in a time of 3 minutes, 14.051 seconds to lower the world record they set earlier in the day.
The U.S. grabbed the silver medal, and Canada beat Australia for the bronze.
The winning riders pumped their fists while doing a victory lap, cheered on by Paul McCartney and about 6,000 of their newest friends.
Triumphs for Britain in men’s four and the lightweight women’s double sculls sparked more scenes of jubilation at Dorney Lake and took the host country’s tally of golds to four, one more then New Zealand.
Britain finished with nine medals — four golds, two silvers and three bronzes — to surpass the country’s record total of eight from the 1908 Olympics. Those games were also held in London.
In the two other finals raced under gloomy skies, Miroslava Knapkova of the Czech Republic won the women’s single sculls, and Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist took the lightweight double for Denmark’s only gold of the regatta.
New Zealand beat the United States 3-2 in the women’s tournament, preventing the Americans from advancing to the medal round.
The Netherlands sealed a place in the semifinals with a 3-2 win over South Korea. China beat Britain 2-1 to stay in the running for the semis, Australia blanked South Africa 1-0 and Belgium drew 1-1 with Japan. Argentina also won, topping Germany 3-1.
The troubled women’s doubles tournament concluded with Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei defeating Japan’s Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa 21-10, 25-23 in the final.
Tian and Zhao are the players that inadvertently started off the problems at Wembley Arena by losing a match to a Danish team in the group stage. That set off a wave of trouble that led to the disqualification of four teams, including the favorites from China.
Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang made up the top-seeded team for the London Games, but they were among eight players disqualified ahead of the quarterfinals for purposefully losing group matches in order to manipulate the pairings for the knockout stages.
In women’s singles, Li Xuerui beat Wang Yihan 21-15, 21-23, 21-17 in an all-Chinese final, and Saina Nehwal became only the second woman from India to medal in the Olympics when Wang Xin of China retired with an injury during their bronze playoff.
ELSEWHERE IN LONDON
Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic (women’s discus) and China’s Chen Ding (men’s 20-kilometer walk) won gold medals. … Rosannagh MacLennan earned Canada’s first Olympic gold in London, capturing the women’s trampoline title when defending champion He Wenna of China wobbled during her final routine. … Canada’s Ian Millar rode into Olympic history by competing in his 10th games, more than any athlete. … China won the fencing gold for women’s team epee. … Ilya Ilin of Kazakhstan defended his weightlifting title in the men’s 94-kilogram division. Russia’s Alexandr Ivanov was second, and Anatoli Ciricu of Moldova won the bronze. … South Korea defeated North Korea in men’s table tennis, and top-seeded China also advanced to the quarterfinals. … Australia’s Tom Slingsby won both Laser races to take a 14-point lead over Pavlos Kontides of Cypress into Monday’s medals race. … Sweden, Tunisia and Serbia won their men’s handball matches.