It was evident from the opening tip that Team USA wouldn't have a problem putting a shellacking on Nigeria, but nobody could have expected that the United States would break the record for most points scored by a team in the Olympic Games.
Carmelo Anthony set the record for most points scored by an American in Olympic competition with 37, putting on one of the best shooting displays the sport of basketball has ever seen to lead his team to a 156-73 win.
Kevin Durant started off the record-setting night with a wide-open three-pointer, and the rout was on from there. The United States put on a shooting clinic in the opening quarter, creating easy perimeter shots through perfect ball movement.
Team USA's tenacious perimeter defense tortured the less-talented Nigerian players, leading to fast-break slams and plenty of high-flying alley-oops, but it was the outside scoring that stole the show.
Coach K and company showed some class in the second half by letting up (slightly) on the pressure defense and giving the Nigerians some room. It wouldn't have been so embarrassing for Nigeria if the Americans cooled down from behind the arc, but 'Melo and company hit 29 threes.
There's no doubt that Team USA is far and away the favorite to win the gold medal, but it could get even worse for opposing teams if the NBA stars continue to play at this level.
The USA Basketball Twitter account let the Internet know just how ridiculous Anthony's shooting display was:
Carmelo Anthony has 37 pts on 10-of-12 from three, all three of which are U.S. Olympic records— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) August 2, 2012
Here's a nice little pop-culture reference from ESPN's SportsNation:
If this was NBA Jam, all of Team USA would be on fire right now.— SportsNation (@SportsNation) August 2, 2012
Grantland's Rembert Browne agrees that this game hardly seemed real and almost video game-esque:
USA-Nigeria is taking place at Dave & Busters. Carmelo has 735,000 tokens.— Rembert Browne (@rembert) August 2, 2012
Expert tweeter Eric Stangel noticed just how bad this blowout actually was:
USA basketball dominating Nigeria. There's a good chance at some point we might even see Laettner play— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) August 2, 2012
It wouldn't be a twitter reaction if we didn't include fake Bill Walton:
Russell Westbrook just flew through the clouds like a ferocious mohwaked mutant hellbent on shattering the rim! Turtle Power!!— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) August 2, 2012
'Melo was the picture of efficiency. His production per 40 minutes is absolutely through the roof:
In case you were wondering ... Melo's 37 points came in 14 minutes. No, that's not a typo.— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) August 2, 2012
Are you still wondering why Team USA is the favorite? If you are, ESPN's John Hollinger provides a nifty stat:
Ten of the other 11 teams that played today scored 82 points or less. The US just WON BY 83.— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) August 2, 2012
Grades for Key Team USA Players
Kobe Bryant: A
Kobe Bryant didn't play much in the second half, but he didn't need to after what he did in the first quarter. His first-quarter performance, which got the Americans started, was redemption for his irrelevance against Tunisia.
The Black Mamba finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, two steals, two assists and a trio of rebounds in just under 11 minutes on the floor.
Russell Westbrook: A
Is there a more athletic man on the face of the earth than Russell Westbrook? He can literally do anything that a superstar should on a basketball court.
He's amazing to watch because of his intensity and his thunderous dunks, but his speed is what is most exciting. Westbrook finished with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
Carmelo Anthony: A+
If there was a grade higher than "A+," Carmelo Anthony deserves it. His performance had to be one of the best showcases of perimeter shooting that basketball has ever seen.
You can't chalk his dominance up to Nigeria being an inferior opponent, as it's hard enough to hit 10-of-12 threes in an empty gym without a defender in sight.
'Melo proved once again why he is one of the elite scorers in the NBA.
Grades for Key Nigeria Players
Ike Diogu: A
Ike Diogu was the best player on the floor for Nigeria in this one. Unfortunately, nothing he could have done would have changed the outcome of this brutal beat-down.
The former Arizona State Sun Devil finished with 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting in 30 minutes.
Al-Farouq Aminu: C-
If Nigeria is going to go anywhere in this tournament, Al-Farouq Aminu has to do a lot for his team on the offensive end. Unfortunately, he was largely absent against the Americans.
In 26 minutes, Aminu finished with a mere seven points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Deciding Factor: Team USA's Insane First Quarter
The United States' first quarter was probably the best quarter that any basketball team on any level has ever played.
Led by an energized Kobe Bryant, the Americans shot 18-of-22 (81.8 percent) from the field, including 11-of-14 from three-point land en route to pouring in 49 points in the first 10 minutes.
The U.S. pressured the ball relentlessly, leading to five turnovers and a couple of easy layups. Coach K's team has had a problem getting off to a fast start, but that was obviously avoided in this one.
Game MVP: Carmelo Anthony
There isn't much you can say about what Carmelo Anthony did at the expense of Nigeria. Few people in the world can shoot the way 'Melo did on Thursday.
Anthony broke the record for most points scored by an American in Olympic play with 37 points in just 14 minutes on 13-of-16 shooting (10-of-12 from three). 'Melo missed just as many free throws as he did three-point shots.
The United States gets a day off before playing Lithuania on Saturday, Aug. 4. If this team carries over this unreal level of play into that game, it's going to be ugly for the Lithuanians.
Nigeria is happy to seek refuge in the locker room after receiving a walloping for the ages. Things won't get much better, as it is slated to meet Argentina on the same day Team USA meets Lithuania.