MACAU (Reuters) - The U.S. men’s basketball team erased any doubts about their intentions for the Beijing Olympics with a ruthless 120-84 win over Lithuania in Macau on Friday.
The Americans, who were criticized for their approach to the last Olympics in Athens when they surprisingly missed out on the gold, sent an ominous message to their rivals in Beijing with a merciless defeat of Lithuania in the former Portuguese colony.
Guard Dwayne Wade top-scored with 19 points while starting centre Dwight Howard scored 17 and Michael Redd 16 in a match played in one of the many casinos that have turned Macau into the gambling hub of Asia.
LeBron James managed 15 points, five rebounds and six assists but, more importantly, came through the physical match unscathed after pulling out of a warmup game against Canada because of an ankle problem.
Kobe Bryant was once again impressive, scoring 13 points, as the Americans chalked up their second win in 24 hours after beating Turkey the previous night.
“This was a very good performance. I am not dissatisfied with anything,” U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski told a news conference.
“I think we played really well tonight because we had so much respect for Lithuania, who I think can be a medal winner (in Beijing).”
Rimantas Kaukenas top-scored for Lithuania with 17 points. The Europeans provided the Americans with the physical test they wanted before the Games but never threatened to win, despite reducing a 17-point halftime deficit to nine points in the third quarter.
“We lost the game and we played very badly but you have to look at who we were playing against,” Lithuania coach Ramunas Butautas said.
“We played against the best team in the world, they have the best players, the best coaches, the best everything, and they played their best tonight.”
The Americans will head to Shanghai on Saturday to play two more practice matches against Russia and Australia before they play their opening match of the Olympics against hosts China.
Editing by Sonia Oxley