No, your eyes do not deceive you. Today, the United States beat Nigeria by 83 points as they scored an Olympic record of 156. They knocked down 29 of 46 threes, racked up 41 assists (to a mere 7 turnovers), and just generally dominated each and every moment of the basketball game. Even as they began to slowly let their foot off the gas following an incredible 49-point first quarter, the shots never stopped falling. The only thing that really changed was the pace. Honestly, what I saw this afternoon was indescribable… but I’ll do my best.
***LeBron James and Kobe Bryant only played about 11 minutes a piece, but they each made plays that set the tone of this blowout. LeBron recorded five early assists, establishing a certain degree of unselfishness amongst Team USA. As for Kobe, he just came out like a house on fire, dropping tough shots in the faces of Nigerian defenders. As hot as the Americans stayed throughout the entire 40-minute onslaught, the first quarter (49 points, 11 threes) was Team USA at its absolute best.
***Carmelo Anthony dropping 37 points to break Stephon Marbury’s individual scoring record of 31 was a wonderful thing to see. No disrespect to Steph, but his name needed to be wiped clean from the Olympic record books. Yeah, both he and Carmelo were members of the flawed 2004 team that failed to win gold, but Melo was just a youngin’ while Steph was one of the established veterans who failed to bring a winning attitude. Carmelo has been excellent in international competition for a number of years now, and I think it felt as appropriate as it did fun to watch him singe the net with 10 three-point makes (also an Olympic record). I wish Coach K had let him cook until he missed.
***Despite the fact that Team USA’s shooters faced little resistance from Nigerian defenders, this was one of the most incredible displays of outside shooting I’ve ever seen. I don’t care if the gym is empty… 29-46, or 63%, is pretty good. It was crazy how contagious the hot hand was in this game. Seven different players made over half of their three-point attempts, including average outside shooters like Andre Iguodala (3-3) and Russell Westbrook (3-4). Overall (twos and threes), James Harden posted the team’s worst field goal percentage as he went 3-8. He was the only USA player who failed to make at least half his shots. The entire roster of 12 played and shot, so that’s a pretty crazy statistic.
***Anthony Davis was going to play in the first half… except he got to the scorers table and realized he’d forgotten to put his jersey on. Rookie mistake.
***When Davis finally did check in he immediately made his presence felt with an alley-oop dunk. He converted at least one more lob before the game concluded, adding to the five he had against Tunisia. At this point I think it’s safe to say Anthony Davis is leading the Universe in alley-oop dunks per minute. Kind of forces you to wonder what could’ve been had Paul stuck it out with the Hornets. I suppose that almost certainly wouldn’t have landed Davis in New Orleans in the first place, but still… it’s an interesting idea to ponder, I suppose.
***To Nigeria’s credit, they produced the highlight of the afternoon. Tony Skinn had just one field goal in the game, but he was damn sure to make it count. I hope James Harden stretched his groin before tip off…
I’ll do my best to add a few more thoughts (and a few more videos) later on, but I’ve got a game of my own to attend!