US fall to Nigeria 90-87 in pre-Olympic opener
LAS VEGAS, July 11, (AP): This is not how USA Basketball expected to open its Olympic summer.
Nigeria probably didn’t expect it, either.
If there was any expectation of invincibility for the Americans heading into the Tokyo Olympics, it’s already gone - after Nigeria shocked the U.S. 90-87.
Nigeria pulled off an international shocker with a roster primarily filled of little-known NBA players that found a way to beat a group of AllNBA, All-Star and max-contract performers.
“I thought that the Nigerian team played very physically, did a great job in that regard and knocked down a lot of 3s,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “Give them credit.”
Gabe Nnamdi, who goes by Gabe Vincent when playing for the Miami Heat, led Nigeria with 21 points. Caleb Agada scored 17 points, Ike Nwamu added 13 and Nigeria outscored the U.S. 60-30 from 3-point range.
Kevin Durant, who had never before played in a loss for USA Basketball in 39 senior international games, had 17 points. Jayson Tatum added 15, Damian Lillard had 14 and Bam Adebayo 11.
“Just goes to show that we have to play better,” Tatum said.
The Americans had gone 39-0 in their last three Olympic seasons including pre-Olympic exhibitions - on their way to gold medals and had been 54-2 in major exhibitions since NBA players began playing for USA Basketball in 1992. Plus, they’d beaten Nigeria by a combined 127 points in their last two meetings, one at the 2012 London Games, the other a warm-up for the 2016 Rio Games.
Nigeria lost to the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics by 83 points. Lost to the Americans again four years later in an exhibition, that time by 44 points. Not this time.
“Nigeria’s come a long way with their basketball,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said.
Meanwhile, Patty Mills hit a 3-pointer as time expired, giving Australia an 87-84 win over Argentina in a pre-Olympics exhibition.
Mills inbounded the ball with 2.5 seconds left to Jock Lansdale, who handed it back to Mills for the winning shot at the buzzer - capping a comeback that was needed after the Australians wasted a 10-point lead midway through the final quarter.
Mills had 17 points for Australia, which got 16 from Joe Ingles, 15 from Matisse Thybulle and 14 from Aron Baynes.
Luis Scola led all scorers with 25 points for Argentina, which trailed by 10 points midway through the fourth before going on an 11-0 run to reclaim the lead. Facundo Campazzo scored 12 for Argentina and Luca Vildoza scored 11.