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MANILA, Philippines – USA star Anthony Edwards offered no excuses after the Americans were dealt a harsh reality check by Lithuania in the 2023 FIBA World Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, September 3.
After a dominant 4-0 start to the tournament, USA, bannered by 12 NBA players, suffered a stunning 110-104 defeat at the hands of the red-hot Lithuanians, who remained undefeated after five matches.
Following the upset, the flamboyant guard Edwards, who saw his 35-point explosion go down the drain, kept it short and simple – while also lauding Mindaugas Kuzminskas, one of seven Lithuanian players who scored in double-digits in the high-scoring contest.
“They beat us fair and square. Shout out to [Kuzminskas], he hit two big threes in the fourth while we were making our run,” said the No.1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft Edwards.
“Off balanced, falling out of bounds, one of them was two seconds left. I stripped the ball, he picked it up and threw it so shout out to him. It was his night,” added Edwards of Kuzminskas, who produced 14 points on 2-of-3 shooting from deep.
“They beat us fair and square,” he repeated.
After trailing by as many as 21 points early in the second quarter, 12-33, USA, led by Edwards, came alive in the third period to trim Lithuania’s lead to just a two-possession affair, 67-63.
However, with USA still knocking on Lithuania’s doors in the final frame, 91-85, that was when the former New York Knick Kuzminskas sank the backbreaking, shot clock-beating three-pointer over Edwards to widen the Lithuanians’ gap over the Americans even further with only 3:52 to play.
It was raining threes at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday as Lithuania connected on 14 of their 25 attempts from beyond the arc – nine coming in the first half alone.
USA, meanwhile, shot just 11-of-29 from downtown, with Edwards sinking five of those 11 triples.
Luckily for the Americans, their match against Lithuania was essentially non-bearing as both teams have already punched their tickets to the quarterfinals following contrasting victories over Montenegro and Greece, respectively, last Friday, September 1.
USA has also clinched a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics as one of the top two finishers from the Americas, together with Canada.
With the first two rounds of the World Cup now in the books, USA now shifts its focus on its do-or-die quarterfinal showdown versus Italy on Tuesday, September 5, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Unlike the Americans, the 10th-ranked Azzurri are coming off a convincing 73-57 thrashing of Puerto Rico on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“All I’m thinking about is the next game. We’re going to watch film and learn from it, but on to the next one,” said Edwards. – Rappler.com