LONDON >> Two days after running and gunning to a record-shattering 83-point win, the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team had to come back in the fourth quarter for a 99-94 win over a fearless Lithuania team that had the world’s best squad in serious trouble until the closing minutes.
LeBron James scored 9 of 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 and breaking several records. But the Americans were reminded that the path to the gold medal is loaded with traps and Lithuania nearly sprang one.
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.
Linas Kleiza scored 25 to lead Lithuania, which led 84-82 with 5:50 to play. After the U.S. took a three-point lead, Lithuania would not go away and pulled within 87-86 on Darius Songaila’s bucket with 4:12 left.
That’s when James, who has already won an MVP trophy and NBA title this year, took control.
He knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and after Paul stole the inbounds pass, James took a pass 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.
After a basket by Deron Williams — on a possession Paul kept alive with an offensive rebound — James followed a Lithuania turnover with a left-handed layup, giving the U.S. a 97-88 lead and allowed the Americans to remain unbeaten — though no longer untested.