LONDON -- When the moment arrived, the Americans responded.

They're still unbeaten, but no longer untested.

Pushed to the max by a fearless Lithuanian team smelling a world-shaking Olympic upset, the U.S. collection of basketball superstars united as one.

And LeBron James led the way.

Two days after running and gunning to a record-shattering 83-point win, the U.S. was forced to play a possession-for-possession game in the fourth quarter in a 99-94 win over Lithuania.

The Americans were in serious trouble until James - in his third Olympics - stepped up in the closing minutes.

"It was like LeBron said, 'I got this, I'm doing this," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

James scored 9 his 20 points in the final four minutes for the U.S. (4-0), which had looked nearly invincible in thrashing Nigeria 156-73 on Thursday night while breaking several records. But the Americans were reminded that the path to a gold medal is loaded with traps and Lithuania nearly sprang one.

"You want to get tested," James said. "The best teams want to be tested. We love the competition. We've got some of the greatest competitors in our league, in this world, so you want to have a game where you feel like you were tested, and we had that today."

And then some.

The U.S. trailed by two points with under six minutes left before using a 15-4 run to put away Lithuania (1-3), which was seeking to duplicate its stunning win over the Americans in 2004 win at Athens, when the U.S. program dropped to its low point after decades of dominance.

However, James, who was an Olympic rookie eight years ago, refused to allow it.

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  • United States' Kobe Bryant shoots against Lithuania during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Christian Petersen, Pool)

  • Lebron James

    USA's Lebron James reacts to an officials call during a preliminary men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Mike Krzyzewski

    USA coach Mike Krzyzewski signals to players during a preliminary men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Lebron James, Andre Iguodala

    USA's Lebron James, left, and USA's Andre Iguodala, right, celebrate during a preliminary men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Deron Williams

    USA's Deron Williams (8) celebrates after scoring during a preliminary men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Lebron James

    USA's Lebron James (6) signals after scoring with a three point basket during a preliminary men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Lebron James, Renaldas Seibutis

    USA's Lebron James (6) works the ball past Lithuania's Renaldas Seibutis during a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Lebron James

    USA's Lebron James (6) signals after scoring with a three point basket during a preliminary men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Kevin Durant, Mantas Kalnietis

    USA's Kevin Durant, left, and Lithuania's Mantas Kalnietis, right, scramble for a rebound during a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Lebron James

    USA's Lebron James reacts after an official's call during a preliminary men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Chris Paul, Linas Kleiza

    USA's Chris Paul (13) is defended by Lithuania's Linas Kleiza, center, during a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Deron Williams, Simas Jasaitis

    USA's Deron Williams (8) drives to the basket as Lithuania's Simas Jasaitis, left, defends during a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Jamie Zaslav, Alison Zaslav

    Jamie Zaslav, left, and Alison Zaslav, right, stand for the national anthems prior to a preliminary men's basketball game between Lithuania and the USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Mantas Kalnietis

    Lithuania's Mantas Kalnietis (5) is stripped of the ball during a preliminary men's basketball game against the USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Kevin Love, Paulius Jankunas

    USA's Kevin Love (11) and Lithuania's Paulius Jankunas, right, get tangled as they reach for a rebound during a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • United States' Chris Paul (13) drives against Lithuania during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

  • 148073348

    United States' Kevin Durant vies for the ball against Lithuania during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

  • Lithuania's Linas Kleiza (11) drives past United States' Tyson Chandler for a lay-up as teammate Jonas Valanciunas (14) and United States' Lebron James (6) watch during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Sergio Perez, Pool)

  • United States' Lebron James (6) shoots over Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas (14) during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Sergio Perez, Pool)

  • Mike Krzyzewski, LeBron James

    USA coach Mike Krzyzewski talks with LeBron James during a men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Chris Paul, Sarunas Jasikevicius

    USA's Chris Paul, left, collides with Lithuania's Sarunas Jasikevicius while chasing a loose ball during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Kobe Bryant

    USA's Kobe Bryant pauses during a men's basketball game against Lithuania at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • LeBron James, Simas Jasaitis

    USA's Lebron James reaches up for a rebound against Lithuania's Simas Jasaitis during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • LeBron James, arius Songaila

    USA's Lebron James (6) drives to the basket past Lithuania's Darius Songaila during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • United States' Carmelo Anthony (15) jumps to score past Lithuania's Linas Kleiza during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

  • United States' Russell Westbrook grabs for ball against Lithuania during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

  • United States' Deron Williams (8) shoots past Lithuania's Antanas Kavaliauskas (12) and Linas Kleiza (11) during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

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    Lithuania's Antanas Kavaliauskas (12) drives to the basket against United States' Carmelo Anthony (15) during their men's preliminary round basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

  • LeBron James, Simas Jasaitis

    USA's Lebron James reaches up for a rebound against Lithuania's Simas Jasaitis during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Carmelo Anthony, Linas Kleiza

    USA's Carmelo Anthony (15) scores against Lithuania's Linas Kleiza during a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Jonas Valanciunas

    Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas grabs his throat after colliding with USA's Kobe Bryant during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Kobe Bryant, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Jonas Valanciunas

    USA's Kobe Bryant drives to the basket between Lithuania's Sarunas Jasikevicius, left and Jonas Valanciunas during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • LeBron James, Antanas Kavaliauskas

    USA's Lebron James shoots as he drives past Lithuania's Antanas Kavaliauskas (12) during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Kobe Bryant, Jonas Valanciunas, Tyson Chandler

    USA's Kobe Bryant puts up a shot against Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas (14) during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. At left is USA's Tyson Chandler. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • LeBron James, Martynas Pocius, Kobe Bryant

    USA's Lebron James drives to the basket against Lithuania's Martynas Pocius during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London. At right is USA's Kobe Bryant. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


The reigning MVP and a recently crowned NBA champion knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and after Paul stole the inbounds pass, James took a feed down the right side and delivered one of his trademark dunks, a basket that brought the American players off the bench and seemed to restore world basketball order.

Carmelo Anthony added 20 points, Kevin Durant 16 and Chris Paul added seven rebounds, six assists and four of the U.S. team's 17 steals. After making a record 29 3-pointers in their epic win over Nigeria, the Americans missed 23 of 33 attempts behind the arc and too often settled for outside shots.

The U.S. wasn't sharp on defense either as Lithuania ran a high pick-and-roll to death that the Americans never really figured out how to stop.

"We can play better offensively and defensively, no questions about that," Krzyzewski said.

It didn't help that the U.S. also missed 12 free throws, with Kevin Love going 3 of 8.

"Shaq on the free-throw line today," Love posted on his Twitter page, comparing himself to Shaquille O'Neal. "My bad USA. Good win for us. Needed a game like that."

Linas Kleiza scored 25 points and Martynas Pocius, who played for Krzyzewski at Duke, had 14 for Lithuania, the longtime hoop power with three Olympic bronze medals on its resume.

Krzyzewski figured his team would be challenged sooner or later and was not at all surprised the first real conflict came against Lithuania.

"These guys are really good," he said. "We needed this."

No, this wasn't easy, and that may be good in the long run for the Americans, who couldn't have helped but feel a little overconfident after Thursday's game when they made 29 3-pointers, scored 78 points in both halves and put on a breathtaking 40-minute display of international basketball.

Lithuania had lost to Nigeria last month in a qualifying tournament, but that hardly mattered once the ball went in the air.

"It's always a great game when we play against Lithuania," Paul said. "We knew this was gonna be a dog fight and those guys played an unbelievable, unbelievable game."

With a roster featuring Kleiza, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, and several players who played collegiately in the U.S., Lithuania, went right at the Americans' star-studded crew from the start.

In fact, Lithuania outrebounded the U.S. 42-37 and for long stretches it was the sharper team on the floor. Lithuania also shot an impressive 58 percent (38 for 65) from the field. But with a bench like no other, the U.S. simply wore Lithuania down in the fourth quarter, forcing several turnovers to swing the game in the final minutes.

After Russia upset Spain 77-74 in the morning session to win Group B, Russia's Andrei Kirilenko said there isn't any team that can't be beat.

"One night you can have 156 points, and a different night the ball could start missing," he said.

The words seemed prophetic as the Americans never found its collective touch, never led by more than 12 and were lucky Lithuania misfired on some big shots in the fourth.

Krzyzewski gave his team Friday off, canceling practice to rest players coming off a grueling NBA schedule and allow them a chance to get out and to other events and root on their Olympic teammates. The day off may have cost the Americans a little of their edge as they came out somewhat sloppy.

With the medal round approaching quickly, the Americans aren't likely to skip another day at the gym.

"We can be more ready to play than we were," Krzyzewski said. "But overall this was a really good game for us. Winning like we did was terrific for us."

There will be better - and bigger - ones ahead.

Once preliminary play ends, it's on to the knockout round, where one slip can crush dreams of gold.

The pressure will intensify. The stakes will rise.

Lithuania was only a warmup, but after three easy games, the U.S. needed a game where losing was possible.

"You'd like to win every game by 30 points, light up the cigar or put your feet up," Krzyzewski said. "We're better off now, now that we're through it."