LAS VEGAS – Team USA suffered a breathtaking and sobering defeat in their first exhibition game before the Olympic Games and were played out by Nigeria on Saturday evening with a 90-87 defeat.
At the start of the game, the Americans had been 54-2 in exhibition games since the pros started playing in 1992, beating Nigeria with 83 points in the London Olympics just nine years ago. Five years ago, Team USA beat Nigeria in an exhibition with 43 points.
Nigeria currently has five NBA players and that talent was particularly evident in physical defense and 3-point shooting. But the Americans deployed five All-NBA players and were executed.
Team USA, which had four days of training this week, played a very isolation-heavy game as it was clear that not much chemistry had developed yet. But with players like Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal, they have some of the best isolation players in the world.
But all three were rusty and bothered by the size of the opponent, shooting together 9 of 30. Durant finished with 15 points but only made 2 of his first 11 shots, which helped Nigeria get an eight-point in less than two minutes before the game started -Building the lead.
The Americans rallied furiously and had the ball twice with a chance of tying, but their execution was poor. After coach Gregg Popovich had taken his last time-out with 13 seconds to go, the subsequent possession of the ball was chaotic and resulted in no points.
Nigeria made a devastating 20 of 42 3-pointers and repeatedly went through Team USA rotations as they garnered 21 assists. Guard Gabe Vincent, who plays for the Miami Heat, made 6 of 8 3-pointers and finished with 21 points. Calab Agada, who plays in the Israeli league, made three 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.