MADRID – Kevin Durant scored 15 points and the United States overcame a poor shooting start and early nerves to beat Lithuania 77-61 Saturday in a warmup for the basketball world championship.
The U.S. trailed 15-7 after shooting 3 of 21 and making six turnovers in the first period.
The Americans regained their composure against an equally poor-shooting opponent, taking the lead for good at 54-49 after Lithuania was assessed a technical foul and flagrant foul by Mantas Kalnietis near the end of the third period. It was part of a 17-0 U.S. run led by Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon.
"I thought we were a little tight and they played well defensively," coach Mike Krzyzewski said from the "Magic Box" center.
Linas Kleiza scored 12 points for Lithuania, which hit 25 of 62 shots to the Americans' 27-of-58 shooting.
Durant, Rajon Rondo, Chauncey Billups, Andre Iguodala and Tyson Chandler started as expected against Lithuania, which was coming off a 94-75 loss to Spain on Friday. The U.S. had won its only previous exhibition, against France.
The inexperienced Americans showed their nerves early under Lithuanian pressure, and it took Rudy Gay's entry to spark the U.S. But it was the play of Westbrook and Gordon in the third quarter that gave the U.S. the cushion it needed. Gay finished with 14 points and five rebounds, and Gordon added nine points.
"I thought (Derrick) Rose, Gordon and Gay really picked us up," Krzyzewski said. "But you have to have that energy at the start of a ballgame, we have to start out strong."
Gay ended Lithuania's 6-0 run, with the Memphis Grizzlies forward scoring from the right before blocking Paulius Jankunas' one-handed slam attempt.
Westbrook, who had 12 points and five rebounds, also played a key role in his bid to make the team, as Krzyzewski must drop his roster by one player to 12 before the Aug. 28-Sept. 12 worlds in Turkey.
"I try to go out and not pay attention to what's happening with the cuts and whose getting cut," said Westbrook, Durant's teammate on the Oklahoma City Thunder. "The key for me and the rest of the team is coming out and having a defensive mindset. If we defend our offense will take care of itself."
After the sluggish first half, the pace picked up and the teams traded the lead as Gay made up for an earlier miss with a high-flying dunk for 44-42 lead. Center Robertas Javtokas kept Lithuania close with eight points in the period.
The U.S. defense improved in the third period when Gordon made down all four free throws after the technical and flagrant foul, and followed up a Westbrook dunk off a steal with his own lay-in as the U.S. went into the fourth period with momentum and ready to run its fast break. Lithuania didn't hit a shot for five minutes at the beginning of the period.
Durant said the excitement of getting started in the Spanish capital added to his poor night.
"It was a tough one," he said. "But we fought through it."
The U.S. plays defending world champion Spain on Sunday.