Nigeria Stuns Kevin Durant, Team USA 90-87 in Exhibition Before 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 11, 2021

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 10: Gabe Vincent #22 of the Nigeria Men's National Team dribbles the ball during the game against the USA Men's National Team on July 10, 2021 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nigerian men's basketball national team made 20 three-pointers en route to defeating Team USA 90-87 in an Olympic exhibition matchup from Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent led Nigeria's three-point barrage by making 6-of-8 shots from downtown en route to 21 points. Caleb Agada hit all three of his three-pointers en route to 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

For Team USA, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant had 17 points, and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum added 15.

Team USA had a chance to tie the game after coming out of a timeout with 13.2 seconds remaining, but they did not get a shot off before shooting guard Zach LaVine was fouled with 3.5 seconds remaining.

LaVine missed both of his free-throw attempts, leading to Miami Heat center Precious Achiuwa's defensive rebound. 

Achiuwa went to the free-throw line with a chance to ice the game for Nigeria, but he also missed both free throws with 1.4 seconds left.

A scramble for a loose ball ensued, and it ended in Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard's hands. A desperate full-court heave for the tie did not connect, and Nigeria pulled off the stunning upset after a terrific performance.

This win was not a fluke: Nigeria was clearly the better team on this night, as evidenced by its fantastic shooting display and tough defense.

Still, it was a stunning result given the pregame expectations plus Team USA's past history against Nigeria.

B/R Betting noted the sportsbook figures prior to the game:

br_betting @br_betting

Nigeria ML +2500 βœ…

The last game between these two teams notably ended with Team USA winning 110-66 in the run-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Team USA also beat Nigeria 156-73 during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

This year's team has five more exhibition matchups before the Summer Olympics, which begin on Friday, July 23. Team USA has a long way to go in search of its fourth straight Olympic gold, and after the game, head coach Gregg Popovich took a more optimistic, long-term view of the loss.

"In a way, I’m kind of glad it happened," Popovich said, per Ben Golliver of the Washington Post. "That means nothing if we don’t learn from it. It could be the most important thing in this tournament for us."

On the other sideline, it's a tremendous moment for ex-NBA head coach (and current Nigerian national team head coach) Mike Brown, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic noted:

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

What a moment for Mike Brown. Took the job as head coach of the Nigerian national team in hopes of transforming the program over the next half-decade. Quite an immediate boost. They just upset Team USA in an Olympic exhibition opener in Vegas.

The program has certainly been transformed.

Nigerian national team isn't short on NBA talent: Three members of the Miami Heat (Achiuwa, Vincent and KZ Okpala) were in the starting lineup alongside Minnesota Timberwolves wing Josh Okogie.

That doesn't include the non-NBA talents, including Agada, who plays for Hapoel Be'er Sheva of the Israeli Premier League.

Their collective effort was nothing short of sensational against a team loaded with All-Star talent:

USA Basketball @usabasketball

New team, same expectations.<br><br>The πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USABMNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USABMNT</a> Olympic numbers are in πŸ™Œ <a href="https://t.co/W3aecRZpxw">pic.twitter.com/W3aecRZpxw</a>

Granted, three of those players (Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks) were unavailable due to their ongoing participation in the NBA Finals, but the rest of that crew is made up of current or former NBA All-Stars outside Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant, who just averaged a career-high 22.3 points per game.

Team USA will look to rebound in its next exhibition matchup against Australia at 8 p.m. ET on Monday.