With an unexpected opening to Team USA’s Olympic Summer, USA ends with a loss in their first exhibition to Nigeria 90-87. This marks the USA’s first defeat to an African opponent and one of the biggest upsets in recent international basketball history. The young Nigeria team headlined by multiple Miami Heat players defeated a team predominantly of All-Stars and max contract extensions.
Nigeria lost to the US during the 2012 Olympics by 83 points, then again four years later in an exhibition by 44. The favorites to win were made apparent as Team USA was led by Kevin Durant who guided the team in scoring with 17. Jayson Tatum added 15 points and Damian Lillard had 14. Kevin Durant had never played in a loss for USA Basketball in his 39 senior international games prior to last night’s contest.
The US turned over the game’s outcome with an unattempted three-point shot at 13.2 seconds remaining. Before then, Kevin Durant scored the next seven points for the team, beginning at the 1:15 mark; one three-pointer, two free throws following a turnover, then two more from the charity stripe with 16.5 seconds remaining.
“We just wanted to compete,” said Nigeria’s Gabe Vincent. “We know what USA Basketball means around the world and what they’ve stood for, for so long.” Vincent ended as the leading scorer in the game with 21 points. Nigeria’s entire team — especially the Heat’s players — connected on multiple plays, and that’s what led to Saturday night’s outcome.
Nigeria has expanded a lot in recent years and is well recognized within the Olympic Basketball organization. “Nigeria’s come a long way with their basketball,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said.
I thought that the Nigerian team played very physically, did a great job in that regard, and knocked down a lot of threes,” USA Head Coach Gregg Popovich told the media. “Give them credit.” Popovich has been impressed with the US’ players — Bradley Beal for the most part — and both sides will capitalize with their experience in this year’s Olympics.
Team USA will return to action on Monday, (July 12) as they face Australia in the second of five Olympic exhibitions for the club. Australia is led by multiple NBA players — comparable to Nigeria — such as Matisse Thybulle, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes, and further. Second leading scorer Jayson Tatum for the US acknowledged that the US must perform better to prepare for their upcoming games. “Just goes to show that we have to play better,” Tatum said. Jayson Tatum was arguably the best player on the court for Saturday. Boston’s All-Star was all-around appreciable on the offensive side and performed on high efficiency.