Philadelphia 76ers fans like myself were getting used to seeing Andre Iguodala come in during a Team USA Olympic blowout. Iguodala was even playing more minutes than the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, since they weren't needed for crushing wins over Tunisia and Nigeria. Yet once the Americans had to play tight Olympic games, we knew Iguodala wouldn't be used - although it started to look like that wouldn't happen.
However, America nearly went from an 83-point win over Nigeria to a upset loss to much tougher Lithuania. When that possibility became real, it was up to James to return and take over, which he did to help the U.S. survive by 99-94 on Aug. 4.
Since Team USA finally got challenged in the Olympics, Iguodala was back to being a mere bench player. In fact, he played the least minutes of any American, only chipping in three minutes, no points, one defensive rebound and three fouls. The days of Iguodala racking up 15-20 minutes depend on the days of America blowing out every opponent continuing - and they didn't on this day.
While Iguodala stayed sidelined, his much more powerful teammates were stymied by the Lithuanians. America made 10 three-pointers, but it was nowhere near the record-setting 29 that it hit against Nigeria. With the three-pointers not falling for much of the game, Lithuania hung around until it took the lead halfway through the fourth.
That is where James took over, in a way that he is often criticized for not doing in big NBA games. Nevertheless, the now-official King scored nine of his 20 points in the last four minutes, giving Team USA the final run it needed.
Carmelo Anthony also had 20 points - instead of a record-setting 37 like he had over Nigeria - yet he, James, Kevin Durant and Deron Williams had 68 out of America's 99 points. A balanced attack helped the U.S. cruise in the Olympics early on, but it is tougher to do against harsher competition.
With Lithuania being as tough as they come, the equally tougher Argentines looming in the final group play game, and with the medal round coming soon, that harsher competition is finally coming for the new Dream Team. Although the 2012 Americans gave us all flashbacks of 1992 against Nigeria - and even had a bigger blowout than the Dream Team ever forged - the slugfest with Lithuania gave us flashback of the more difficult Olympics of recent years.
This year's team hopefully has four more games left until it wins the gold anyway. If Iguodala gets to play more than three minutes in those games, it will be a sign that things have gone much easier. If not, however, then Team USA's Olympic problems will have only just started from here.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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