Though the outcome was a shock, Team USA was downright awful in the first half, trailing 31-12 at the end of the first quarter and 54-37 at the half. They were unable to spark a run without Lithuania answering immediately.
It didn’t help that Lithuania was on fire in the first half, going 9-for-9 to start the game. Every time Team USA strung some baskets together, Lithuania was there, always ready to answer.
Anthony Edwards put up an impressive 35 points, but nobody else on the team scored more than 14, and Indiana Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton had his lowest-scoring game thus far.
Team USA’s loss to Lithuania screams for more Tyrese Haliburton touches moving forward
In a respectable 19 minutes, Tyrese Haliburton recorded a mere three points (1-for-2 from three), seven assists, two rebounds, one steal, and two blocks, as his touches were a point of concern yet again.
The one shot Haliburton made was quite spectacular, however, as his stepback three hit the back rim and soared through the air before finding the bottom of the net.
Despite his circus shot, Haliburton only recorded one other field goal attempt, missing another three. And while he did have seven assists and played solid defense, a game with only two field goal attempts will get the people talking again.
Ever since Team USA began playing together, going back to the exhibition games, Haliburton has been making do with limited touches. His 8.6 points per game in the five exhibition games mostly came as the result of a 16-point explosion he had in the final game against Germany. Excluding that game, he averaged just 6.7 points.
In group play so far, the story has been more of the same, with Haliburton averaging 8.75 points in the four games before the loss to Lithuania, and his three-point performance brought that number down to 7.6 points.
Touches have been a concern with Haliburton and Team USA thus far. Of course, who could forget when it got so bad that Haliburton was practically begging for the ball on a possession? It’s no coincidence that Haliburton only logged six points that night, his lowest total before the Lithuania matchup.
Now, Team USA has a roster full of fantastic scorers, four of whom averaged at least 18 points last year in the NBA, with Anthony Edwards and Jalen Brunson both putting up 24+ points per game.
And while Haliburton fits right in with the starters with his scoring, as he averaged 20.7 points per game last season for Indiana, his reputation as a pass-first point guard somewhat hurts his scoring reputation, as his first job in Steve Kerr’s eyes is always to set up his teammates, as indicated by his high assist numbers.
Speaking of Kerr, he has received quite a bit of flack on his end for his rotation management, especially his over-reliance on isolation ball. He solved this a bit with his insertion of Josh Hart into the starting lineup in place of Brandon Ingram, who has been relatively poor offensively for Team USA.
Despite this, Kerr still hasn’t been let off the hook for his management of Haliburton’s and Austin Reaves’ minutes, often being ridiculed on social media for not making adjustments when necessary. This will only heighten after Team USA’s loss.
Kerr’s management of Haliburton in the Lithuania game was especially puzzling, with Team USA’s offense actively keeping the ball out of the point guard’s hands in the half-court and choosing to keep the action on the opposite side when he was in.
This was baffling, as Team USA has seen plenty of success with Haliburton running the offense as opposed to standing around and not doing much. He’s a fantastic shooter and connector and has been improving on the defensive end.
Lithuania’s transition defense was excellent, however, and this may have led to some of the changes. That said, I do not understand why a 20 PPG scorer only logged two field goal attempts and ended the game with a mere three points.
Haliburton has clearly been one of the best players for Team USA and has often been the sole reason why they have come up with wins, such as the game against Germany. When Haliburton is on the floor, Team USA seems to flow better, even if he’s not the proximate cause of the scoring.
Either way, it certainly wouldn’t hurt for Steve Kerr to draw up more plays around Haliburton’s scoring and playmaking ability and not have him stand around while the offense is being initiated.
Team USA is full of All-Star talents, but Haliburton has still managed to stand out. Hopefully, he gets to see the ball a bit more moving forward.