USA Basketball did not expect to open their Olympic summer in this manner. Nigeria didn’t probably expect it.
There was no expectation that the Americans would be invincible heading into the Tokyo Olympics. Nigeria defeated the U.S. 90 to 87 on Saturday night. This international shocker was pulled off by a roster of little-known NBA players who managed to defeat a group of All NBA, All Star, and max-contract players.
Gabe Vincent, a Nigerian player who plays for the Miami Heat, said that “we just wanted to compete.” “We are familiar with the meaning of USA Basketball around the globe and what they stand for.”
Since 1992, when the first Dream Team was formed in the USA, the U.S. had lost 11 international games — mostly in the Olympics and World Cups — before Saturday. None of these losses were against an African team.
Gregg Popovich, U.S. coach, stated that “I thought the Nigerian team played very physical, did a tremendous job in that regard & knocked down many 3s.” Give them credit.
Nnamdi was the Nigerian leader with 21 points. Caleb Agada had 17 points and Ike Nwamu had 13. Nigeria was outscored 60-30 by Nigeria from the 3-point range.
Kevin Durant scored 17 points, a feat he had not accomplished in any of the 39 senior international games. Jayson Tatum had 15, Damian Lillard had 14, and Bam Adebayo had 11.
Tatum stated, “Just goes to prove that we have to be better.”
It’s even better.
On their way to gold, the Americans were 39-0 in their three Olympic seasons. They had also been 54-2 in major exhibitions ever since 1992 when NBA players started playing for USA Basketball. They had also beaten Nigeria by a combined total of 127 points in their two previous meetings, one at London’s 2012 Games and the other as a warm up for the Rio Games 2016.
Nigeria lost the 2012 Olympics to the U.S. by 83 points, and was defeated by the Americans four years later in an exhibition defeat by 44 points.
This is not the time.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo stated that Nigeria has made great strides in basketball.
Ike Iroegbu, a former Washington State player who was part of the G League, hit a 3 pointer with just 1:05 left to give Nigeria a 88-80 lead. Durant scored seven more points for the U.S. with a 3-pointer and two free throws after a turnover. Then, Durant added two more points from the line with 16.5 seconds left.
Nnamdi missed two foul shots in 13.2 seconds to restore Nigeria’s three-point lead. Without getting a shot off, the Americans ran 9.7 seconds on the next possession. Zach LaVine missed two free throws — one intentionally — with 3.5 seconds remaining.