Olympics 2012 Basketball: Did Team USA Just Play the Perfect Game?
When it rains, it pours.
Which, for Team USA, appears to be
a good a great an unbelievable thing—at least, if USA Basketball's 156-73 annihilation of lowly Nigeria at the Olympics on Day 6 is any indication.
No need to adjust your screen. The U.S. did, indeed, score 156 points in 40 minutes. Where do I even begin with this one?
As far as shooting is concerned, this was about as close to a perfect night of shooting as the sport of basketball has ever seen in a live, meaningful game—especially at this level of competition.
Unlike in earlier tilts against France and Tunisia, in which Team USA went 0-of-14 from three-point range in the first quarters, the Americans found the range early and often. Kevin Durant opened the scoring with a shot from deep, and Kobe Bryant followed up with one of his own shortly thereafter.
The floodgates were officially open for business—if not swept along entirely with the rushing tide of treys.
By the end of the first quarter, Team USA had hit 11-of-14 from beyond the arc and owned a 49-25 lead.
And to think, that was only the start of the onslaught.
The U.S. seemed to let up a bit in the second quarter, when they outscored Nigeria by "only" nine to extend their lead to 33 by halftime. They went into the locker room at the break with 14 threes to their credit, which already constituted a new U.S. Olympic record for three-point proficiency in a single game.
Then came the third quarter, when Anthony Davis finally got into the game after sitting out the first half (because he forgot to put his jersey on during warm-ups). No matter though. The Brow demonstrated thunderous dunks (nine points worth) and the Yanks continued to shoot like they were throwing kidney pies into the Thames.
Carmelo Anthony, in particular, seemingly couldn't miss, hitting three-pointer after three-pointer until he'd hit 10 from distance and set a new single-game scoring record for USA Basketball with 37 points.
On 16 shots. IN 14 MINUTES!
Melo does the Jordan shrug. GIF:twitpic.com/aeqg09— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 2, 2012
The previous mark belonged to the "great" Stephon Marbury, who dropped 31 points on Spain while "leading" Team USA to the 2004 bronze in Athens.
It wasn't as though 'Melo was hogging the ball in his minutes, either. Most of his shots came on wide-open spot-ups in transition and off of drive-and-kick plays. Now, if you're a member of the New York sports media machine and are looking for fault in Anthony's unconscious display of outside shooting, you can take umbrage with the fact that he fell 18 points shy of the individual Olympic scoring mark, set by Brazil's Oscar Schmidt at the 1988 Seoul Games.
That same Brazilian squad saw its Olympic record for team scoring in a single game of 138 points defenestrated when Andre Iguodala—the All-Star forward for the Philadelphia 76ers whose father just so happens to be Nigerian—drained a three of his own to extend the Yanks' lead to 139-68 with 4:37 left in the fourth quarter.
It was Iggy's third and final make from deep of the evening.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the U.S. had tacked on another 27 points and left even the 1992 Dream Team blushing. Coach K's crew shot 71.1 percent from the field (an Olympic record), including 29 three-pointers in 46 attempts (a U.S. Olympic record and one more than Nigeria had from the floor, period). They also racked up an Olympic-record-tying 41 assists on 59 made baskets.
The only players who didn't hit threes? Tyson Chandler (0-of-0), Anthony Davis (0-of-0) and LeBron James (0-of-1).
The 83-point margin of victory was the largest in the history of USA Basketball history, shattering the previous mark of 72 points by the Bill Russell-led 1956 Olympians against Thailand in Melbourne. All of which came after head coach Mike Krzyzewski gave his squad the day off following a 47-point shellacking of Tunisia on Tuesday.
But (Nitpick Alert!) against Nigeria, the Americans still fell well short of duplicating the Olympic-record 100-point margin that Korea registered against Iraq at the 1948 Summer Games, which were also held in London.
So, what else did the U.S. do "poorly" other than fail to shatter every Olympic basketball record on the books?
Well, Team USA out-rebounded Nigeria by "only" five boards. Granted, the margin probably would've been wider had the Americans had more opportunities to recover missed shots. Except, the U.S. hit nearly every shot it took and limited Nigeria to a mere 68 attempts, thanks to 24 turnovers forced by Mike Krzyzewski's suffocating defense.
Still (Nitpick Alert!), perhaps there's some scolding that is in order for the fact that lowly Nigeria, one of two of this year's Olympic debutantes (along with fellow African newcomer Tunisia), managed to score at all.
Or (Nitpick Alert!), why was it that the U.S. and Nigeria took the same number of free throws? Was it because Team USA had no need to attack the basket and, at a certain point, Nigeria gave up on the idea as well?
Probably. Or maybe there weren't enough highlights? Not including this one:
And ignoring Kobe's double-clutch slam and just about every instance in which LeBron or The Brow touched the ball, although there was this bit of embarrassment for James Harden:
Then again, what's embarrassing to a guy who wears his hair like Harden does? If ever there were a flawless showing of basketball brilliance, particularly in the modern game, this was it. There were times when it appeared as though the Americans couldn't miss, even if they tried. As Nigeria's Tony Skinn told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Nigeria's Tony Skinn on historic Olympic loss to USA: "It was like open gym for them"— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 2, 2012
Indeed it was, even against a D'Tigers team that features nine American-born players, three guys with NBA experience and another bunch who played college ball in the States.
Chances are, though, that we'll never see another shellacking this beautiful again. Not at the Olympics, anyway; not with NBA commissioner David Stern and his constituent owners scheming with FIBA to lock players aged 23 and over out of the Summer Games and shove them into a World Cup of Basketball—off of which the league can profit.
Did Team USA just play the most flawless game ever?
Don't expect the U.S. to shoot the lights out like this in these 2012 Games again, either. They'll face Lithuania on Saturday and Argentina on Monday, two teams that are light years ahead of Nigeria on the court and could give Team USA a scare or two. The going will only get tougher in the knockout rounds, too, when Spain, Brazil and Russia all come into the picture for the Americans.
For now, though, Coach K and his players can bask in the afterglow of not only putting on a show the likes of which the world has never been seen, but making it look absolutely effortless. Good thing, too. They'll need their legs later, so they can climb on top of the podium to claim their gold medals at the end of the tournament.
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