As basketball fans I don’t think we’ll ever see another display of offensive basketball quite as entertaining as the barrage of threes that Team USA deployed in dismantling Nigeria 156-73 this evening in London. Yes, you read that right. 156-73, an 83 point victory for Team USA. EIGHTY-THREE POINTS.
If tonight’s contest was a match of NBA 2k12 and not real-life, instead of calling timeout after the Americans jumped out to a 13-0 lead to start the game the Nigerians would have pressed the reset button. Unlike many of the Olympic Badminton athletes, I do believe that Nigeria would have come back to attempt to compete, but then after seeing that the difficulty was set to “LOL” level would have admitted their horrendous luck of being placed in the same group as this dominant American team and taken their loss like the group of men they are, and moved on. Honestly, what is a team with only two NBA players supposed to do when they play against a team that Kobe Bryant thinks could beat the 92 Dream Team? Take the L and move on. Even they didn’t know it would be as ugly as tonight’s game, though.
156 points. One hundred and fifty-six points. In 40 minutes. That’s an average of just under 4 points per minute (3.9 for you mathematicians). That’s what Team USA accomplished tonight in destroying the record for most points in an Olympic basketball contest, while also setting other records with 78 first half points, 26 three-pointers made, 59 field goals, and an unprecedented and unbelievable 71% field goal percentage. Oh yeah, and Carmelo Anthony had a record 37 points on just 13/16 shooting (10/12 from deep). If those numbers don’t impress you, nothing will. The only thing that went wrong tonight for Team USA is that Anthony Davis forgot to put his jersey on to start the game and only realized his mistake as he was set to check in to the game in the first half (he did put his shirt on at halftime, and actually started the second half for the first time in his Olympic career).
This was the first time that the United States and Nigeria have ever met on the basketball court, and for the Nigerians I bet they hope it’s their last encounter. The United States had previously been 10-0 all-time against African nations, but I think today’s game automatically became the most memorable matchup against that continent. I mean seriously, when you get more than doubled up in a de-facto professional game that has to hurt, and to give up so many records in the process? Just wow.
This was the classic case where two teams that should never have to play each other were matched up in an international competition. It happens a bit too often with the overwhelming talent pool that the United States has, and today Coach K’s men took full advantage of their opportunity. They had major confidence and it showed with the truly lights-out shooting display. I’ll wager to say that no team at any level of basketball has ever shot 59 for 83 in any game, let alone at the Olympics (which we know has never happened until tonight), and then you think about the fact that half of the shots came from three-point territory(29/46 for those who were wondering)? The game has been over for two hours and I still can’t wrap my head around that.
For the casual fan it’s easy to ignore the defensive end of the court when a team is dominating (is there a stronger word to use there?) on offense, but Team USA did work on the defensive end of the floor as well. They forced 25 turnovers, including 12 steals, and it could have been even more lopsided if they didn’t call off the dogs in the fourth quarter and play a passive zone defense that gave the Nigerians a bit more space (which Nigeria didn’t capitalize on, scoring only 11 points in the final 10 minutes).
Obviously Carmelo Anthony was the star of the game with his 37 points, but Russell Westbrook also put up an extraordinary effort with 21 of his own. Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and LeBron James also did a great job of sharing the rock and setting up opportunities as they had 11, 7, and 6 assists, respectively. You can see the full box-score here, but be warned there are a lot of big numbers.
This was a total team effort from Team USA and a fun basketball game to watch as an American. Is there really anything we can take from it, besides the fact that you can’t leave professional shooters wide open, not really. But today was one of those games that will be mentioned quite a few times in the record books and on future Olympic broadcasts for years and years to come. The next one will only be a little bit tougher, as it’s now time to look forward to Lithuania on Saturday morning.
One hundred and fifty-six points.