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Preview: U.S. vs. Lithuania in Olympic men's basketball

CBSSports.com wire reports
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LONDON -- When the final seconds ticked off, leaving zeros on the clock, the three digits on the left side of the scoreboard seemed absurd, impossible.

156.

The U.S. Olympic men's team had given a 40-minute basketball clinic for the world, draining 3-pointers and throttling Nigeria by 83 points in a spectacular, never-before-seen performance Thursday night that even exceeded anything done 20 years ago by the 1992 Dream Team.

It's difficult to imagine the U.S. (3-0) playing any better on Saturday against Lithuania (1-2), which must be wondering what the 12-man-deep U.S squad has in store.

The Americans are finding their rhythm, and looking to make a lasting impression.

"We always try to make our mark, somehow, some way, and this is all well and good," U.S. guard Chris Paul said. "But the mark that we want to leave is to leave with another gold medal."

Coach Mike Krzyzewski gave his squad the day off Friday, though talk of what the U.S. team did in devastating Nigeria continued.

Much of it centered on Carmelo Anthony, who made 10 of 12 3-pointers and scored 37 points -- all in just 14 minutes, 29 seconds -- to eclipse the U.S. record for points in an Olympic game. Anthony couldn't miss, Nigeria couldn't stop him, so Krzyzewski pulled the three-time Olympian and sat him on the bench next to Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, starters who never took off the warmups after halftime.

Still, some wondered if the U.S. had run up the score.

Following the game, Krzyzewski bristled when a reporter raised the possibility that the U.S. had intentionally tried to embarrass Nigeria, playing in its first games.

Krzyzewski, who teaches his players at Duke to slap the floor before digging in for a big defensive stand, guarded his management of the final 20 minutes, when the U.S. scored 78 points and vaporized the previous record for points in an Olympic game of 138 by Brazil in 1988.

"Obviously, the first thing we did was not play LeBron and Kobe in the second half," Krzyzewski said defiantly. "The second thing was, even with Carmelo shooting like that, we benched him. We didn't play [Kevin] Durant. We didn't take any fast breaks in the fourth quarter, and we played all zone. You have to take a shot every 24 seconds, and the shots we took happened to be hit.

"I take offense to his question, because there's no way in the world that our program in the United States is ever out to humiliate anyone. And a coach would be humiliated if we didn't play hard, but the score is irrelevant to us. We just want to play well and win."

Following the Americans' 47-point win earlier in the week against Tunisia, coach Adel Tlatli praised Krzyzewski.

"They could have absolutely taken us to the cleaners," he said. "But Coach K's discipline made sure that didn't happen."

Releasing wave after wave of NBA All-Star talent against Nigeria, the Americans overwhelmed the African nation much the same way the '92 Dreamers manhandled Angola back in Barcelona.

Bryant's comment earlier this summer that this U.S. team could not only play with, but possibly beat its predecessors, had triggered debate over who is the best to wear the stars and stripes.

After giving Nigeria a devastating beating, Anthony dismissed any notion the 2012 team was trying to upstage the groundbreaking, game-changing 1992 version.

"When we're out there on the basketball court, we're not thinking about what the 1992 Dream Team did or anything like that," Anthony said. "We respect those guys and we understand what those guys did. We understand the standards that those guys set. But we're playing for ourselves right now, for our country, for this moment.

"We're not out there making plays and making shots and playing defense and saying, 'This is the '92 Dream Team.' Those guys did what they did in 1992 and now we have the chance to do something special."

For the second time this week, Krzyzewski canceled practice, giving his players another chance to venture out and see other events. Bryant, who came out with purpose against Nigeria, scoring 14 points in the first six minutes, took a trip to Wimbledon and watched Roger Federer. LeBron James was on hand to see swimmer Michael Phelps close out his career with a 17th gold medal.

The Americans also had Wednesday off, and the 24-hour break from weeks of practices seemed to refresh and refocus them on the task ahead - winning gold.

Lithuania, though, has a history of being a thorn in the U.S. team's side.

At the 2004 Games, shooting guard Sarunas Jasikevicius led the eastern European hoops hotbed to a stunning upset of the Americans, who atoned for that loss in the bronze-medal game. Jasikevicius is still around, but the Lithuanian squad, with NBA veteran Linas Kleiza and soon-to-be Toronto Raptor Jonas Valanciunas, doesn't have the depth or firepower to hang with the U.S. for long.

So far, no one has.

Nigeria couldn't compete.

"It's terrible to get whupped like that," forward Koko Archibong said after the historic drubbing. "But on the other side, it was something impressive to be a part of -- impressive to witness in person."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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