Well well well.
The United States basketball team tipped off their Olympic journey with a Saturday evening exhibition match against Nigeria. With the exception of Kevin Durant an Damian Lillard this particular team USA squad was not littered with superstars it’s still I have enough All-Star caliber of talent on his roster to be seen as a prevailing favorite headed into Tokyo. Undoubtably the expectation was in line with most team USA exhibitions of the past, the opposing squad would come in maybe even put up a good effort and we would see competitive game for a while before team USA would flex their muscle and overwhelmed them with their superior talent. The USA had routed Nigeria in their last two meeting, defeating them by a combined 126 points ( 83 points in the 2012 Olympics in London and by 43 in exhibition in 2016 before the Rio games).
However that was not the case on Saturday.
Nigeria , who featured five NBA players of their own, not only still toe to toe with the United States but actually pulled off the unthinkable and defeated the US 90 to 87.
The Nigerian three-point barrage, they made 20 in the game , combined with their superior offensive execution proved too much for the star-laden United States , who came into this game as a 28.5 point favorite.
While the US may have come into this game is assistant coach Steve Kerr said, to “figure some things out” the Nigerians came to Las Vegas to win and it certainly showed.
The US struggled on offense the isolation heavy attack reminiscent of something seen in an All-Star game, on the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers or at times the Harden/Kyrie/KD Nets of this season. Speaking of Durant, he , Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal went a combined 9-30 from the floor.
Nigeria’s Gabe Vincent who plays for the Miami Heat knock down 6/8 from downtown and dropping 21 points points. Caleb Agada, Who balls in the Israeli league drained 3 three-pointers of his own in scoring 17 points.
The US had been 39-0 in it’s previous three Olympics seasons and posted a record of 54-2 in exhibitions since NBA players began taking part in the games back in 1992.
While the loss is undoubtedly shocking for Team USA, it is not time to hit the panic button yet. What it should do is to serve as a valuable learning moment to teach these guys that though they are very talented, they cannot just show up and win. Basketball outside the borders of the United States have improved dramatically over the past 15 years and the Americans will have to channel their prodigious skills into a functioning team, meaning the over reliance on hero-ball will have to be eschewed if they do not want to repeat the mistakes of the 2004 team.