"Are they beatable?'' Kleiza (right) said in answering that very question about the Americans, who face Lithuania on Saturday in a FIBA World Championship semifinal. "I think every team is beatable. There's no such a team as unbeatable expect that Dream Team (the Americans put together for the 1992 Olympics). They're definitely not beatable in a seven-game series. But in one game, who knows what can happen? A lot of things can go right and a lot of things can go wrong. But they're a very good team.''
The Americans earned a berth in the semifinals with an 89-79 win over Russia in the first quarterfinal played Thursday at the Sinan Erdem Dome. Lithuania followed with a stunningly easy 104-85 win over Argentina.
The teams meet at noon ET on Saturday, with Turkey and Serbia to follow at 2:30 p.m. ET. The winners play Sunday for the gold medal.
"Of course,'' said Lithuania forward Paulius Jankunas, when asked if the Americans are beatable. "We just need to play good and everything is OK.''
One doesn't have to go back too far to find Lithuania defeating the Americans in a major international competition. The tiny nation of 3.3 million beat Team USA 94-90 in the 2004 Olympics before the Americans came back to win 104-96 in the bronze-medal game.
There's one guy who has little doubt Lithuania can beat Team USA. That would be Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez, who had just watched his team get dissected.
Lithuania took leads of 28-18 after the first quarter, 50-30 at halftime and 85-53 after the third quarter in cruising to the win. Forward Simas Jasaitis led Lithuania with 19 points and Kleiza, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, added 17.
"They have a big chance,'' Hernandez said of Lithuania on Saturday. "Because I think before the game that if we beat Lithuania we have a chance to beat the United States. ... (The Americans) play NBA basketball. This is FIBA. I think it will be a great match. ... They can play with the concentration and the discipline and confidence (needed to) beat the USA , and the USA knows that.''
Although American players had already left the venue before Lithuania's lopsided win, several spoke beforehand about the battle they had in an Aug. 21 exhibition with the nation. Team USA won 77-61 in Madrid, but trailed 15-7 after a first quarter in which it shot just 3 of 21.
"We got a chance to play Lithuania, and they're a tough team,'' said Team USA center Tyson Chandler.
Nobody, though, thought the nation would be this tough in the Worlds. After being a wild-card entry, Lithuania, like Team USA, has won all seven of its games.
"I think it's a surprise to everybody,'' Kleiza said. "Coming in, nobody gave us a chance to make it into the top eight. Some of the people thought we're not going to make it out of our group. Being here fighting as a team and having the whole country behind you, it's a great feeling.''
Lithuania proved to be the only team in the Worlds able to shut down Argentina forward Luis Scola, who came in averaging a tournament-high 30.2 points. While Argentina got a game-high 25 points from guard Carlos Delfino, Scola shot just 5 of 16 for 13 points.
"We had very good defenders on him and we made it tough for him,'' Kleiza said. "We kind of knew what he was going to do. If we wanted to win, we had to stop him and we did.''
When Scola last played, he scored 37 points against Brazil, which has a population of 192 million. A nation with a population about 1/60th of that was able to stop Scola.
"We're a small nation,'' said Lithuania coach Kestutis Kemzua, whose nation, which broke away from the Soviet Union in 1990, has made five straight Olympic semifinals, including winning bronze medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000, when it barely lost to the Americans 85-83 in a semifinal.
"(Those in the nation) never give up. ... Our country has ... had a lot of tough moments, but we have survived. You can beat us. You can win. But you cannot destroy us. And this is amazing about our country because of what those guys are doing right now.''
Those guys next have one game against Team USA. It won't be a seven-game series.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson