“[Lithuania] executed their game plan and we just started too slow,” Brunson said after the loss. “We played way better in the second half and waited too long to come to play. That’s on me. I have to come ready to play. I have to have everyone else ready to play. Respect to them, they played great.”
Lithuania rode on a scorching start as they couldn’t miss from the outside. They shot 5-of-5 from the 3-point arc and used their size advantage to take a massive 31-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Brunson led a furious rally in the third quarter that got the Americans within four, 56-52, but Knicks stashed pick Rokas Jokubaitis steadied the ship for Lithuania. Former Knicks player Mindaugas Kuzminskas also hit two run-stopping buckets in the second half — a buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter and a desperation 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down for a 94-85 Lithuania lead with 3:52 left.
“We are going to keep fighting, but that’s not good enough. We have to be fighting for a full 40 minutes. Nothing but respect for those guys. They came ready to play and beat us from the start,” Brunson added.
Brunson finished with 14 points and seven assists with four rebounds and one steal while his Knicks teammate Josh Hart was again a non-factor as a starter against a physical and tall Lithuania frontline led by Jonas Valanciunas.
Hart was scoreless and grabbed only two rebounds in 13 minutes.
Despite the loss, Team USA is already assured of an automatic ticket to the Paris Olympics next year and the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup.
They will play Italy at the start of the knockout rounds on Tuesday at 8:40 a.m. ET live on ESPN2 and ESPN+.
RJ Barrett Helps Canada Return to Olympics
While Brunson and Team USA got off to a slow start, it was the opposite for RJ Barrett to help Canada advance to the quarterfinals and book a ticket to the Paris Olympics next year.
The Knicks starting wing had 11 of his 16 points in the first quarter, then Canada survived his absence in the final 1:32 after picking up his fifth foul to score a huge upset 88-85 win over the top-ranked Spain later in the day.
“I told my dad I was gonna get this,” said Barrett, referring to the Olympics berth. “Yeah, I’m happy! Let’s go!”
It was a full circle moment for the Barretts as his father, Rowan Barrett Sr., currently general manager of Canada Basketball, was on the last Canadian team in the Olympics in 2000.
Knicks Preseason Games Announced
The Knicks basketball will be back shortly after the FIBA World Cup.
The Knicks will host the Celtics on October 9 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time at Madison Square Garden, then will visit them on October 17 at 7:30 p.m. live on NBA TV.
Bunched in between those two rivalry games are home games against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 14 live on NBA TV at 7:30 p.m.
The following night, October 18, the Knicks will wrap up their preseason schedule at home against the new-look Washington Wizards at 7:30 p.m.
All games will also be aired over at MSG Network.