U.S. ease past Lithuania into World Cup final

Thu Sep 11, 2014 6:09pm EDT
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By Tim Hanlon

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Holders United States showed no sign of missing their top players as they breezed into the basketball World Cup final with a commanding 96-68 win over Lithuania on Thursday.

The Americans, competing in Spain with a second-string team, will head confidently into Sunday’s showdown against either European champions France or upstarts Serbia who clash in the other semi-final on Friday.

The champions had steamrollered into the last four and their athletic outfit, even without top NBA players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant, enjoyed another largely effortless evening.

"Lithuania are a great basketball country and were more than worthy opponents," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, one of America's biggest admirers of top European teams, told a news conference.

"We fouled like crazy (in the first half). In the second half we started afresh, we adjusted the defence and it made a huge difference."

The Lithuanians were able to hold their own only in the opening five minutes, when some erratic shooting from the champions allowed the Baltic nation to take a 13-10 lead.

But they had no reply for U.S. domination under the boards as the tournament favourites scored an avalanche of second-chance points from offensive rebounds.

With a 43-35 halftime lead, the U.S. team shored up their defensive leaks after the interval and built a 76-49 advantage in the third quarter, when captain James Harden scored all of his 16 points.   Continued...

Kenneth Faried (L) of the U.S. grabs a rebound over teammate DeMarcus Cousins (12) and Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania during their Basketball World Cup semi-final game in Barcelona September 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino