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What Is USA Basketball's True Ceiling After the 'Perfection Game' vs. Nigeria?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Russell Westbrook #7 of United States shoots against Richard Oruche #11 of Nigeria in the first half during the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Basketball Arena on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 3, 2012

If you were looking for Team USA's ceiling at the Olympics, you almost saw it if you watched the game against Nigeria. 

The Americans shattered record after record, as the blowout started with a 49-point first quarter and continued through all four periods of play. You know that a team's on fire when a 29-point second quarter looks like an outlier. 

Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points on a scorching 10-of-12 shooting from behind the three-point arc. He was just one of many players who drilled shots from downtown, as the Americans made a ridiculous 29 three-pointers en route to an Olympic-record 156 points. 

That shouldn't be allowed to happen. Usually, one player catches fire, not a whole team. 

The Orlando Magic have the record for the most three-pointers in an NBA game with 21. And that's with eight more minutes of action!

Team USA almost managed to pull off an unheard-of feat: shooting its worst percentage from the free-throw line. 

If James Harden didn't exist and hadn't shot 1-of-5 from downtown, it would have happened. The USA shot 71.1 percent from the field, 63.0 percent from three-point territory and 64.3 percent from the charity stripe. 

All of this basically can't be replicated. This was a once-in-a-lifetime game and the kind of contest that you tell grandkids about, as the saying goes. 

That said, if it can happen once, it can happen twice. 

Will it? Probably not, but it is possible. 

And that's why USA basketball's ceiling is slightly higher than what we saw on Thursday night. 

It's not much more than nitpicking, but the defense wasn't up to its normal caliber against an obviously weak Nigerian squad making its first appearance in the Olympics. The Americans allowed 71 points, the same amount given up to a much stronger French national squad. Buoyed by the confidence in their offensive games, the pressure wasn't as strong during the first half after an initial surge to start the game. 

If they somehow managed to pair the defensive effort that we all know they're capable of with an offensive showing like the one against Nigeria, a triple-digit margin of victory is within reach. 

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