Nigeria shocks Team USA
Team USA suffered a stunning and sobering defeat in its first exhibition game before the Olympics, getting outplayed by Nigeria in a 90-87 loss Saturday night.
Coming into the game, the Americans had been 54-2 in exhibition games since professionals started playing in 1992, and just nine years ago beat Nigeria by 83 points in the London Olympics. Five years ago, Team USA beat Nigeria by 43 points in an exhibition.
Nigeria has seven current NBA players, and that talent showed, particularly in its physical defense and 3-point shooting. But the Americans started five All-NBA players and were unable to deliver against a team that appeared to play more together, a common challenge in international competition.
When the pressure arrived — as Nigeria overcame a 10-point deficit and made it clear there was a possible upset in the offing — the Americans tightened up and started playing a very isolation-heavy offense. But with players such as Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal, Team USA has some of the best isolation players in the world.
But all three were rusty and bothered by the opposition’s size and combined to shoot 9-of-30. Durant finished with 17 points but made just 2 of his first 11 shots. Beal played poorly, going 1-of-7, and Lillard didn’t have his typical late-game magic as he missed several open looks.
After falling by eight points with less than two minutes remaining, Team USA made a furious rally and twice had the ball with a chance to tie, but its execution was poor. After Popovich called his last timeout with 13 seconds to play, the ensuing possession was messy, and Team USA couldn’t even get off a shot.
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