by Devon Jeffreys, August 02, 2012
They got off to a slow start in each of their first two Olympic Games, but Team USA was doubtless from the outset in their third game of pool play on Thursday.
The Americans jumped out to a 13-0 lead over Nigeria in the first three minutes on their way to a 49-point first quarter. From there, the rout was on and the records began to fall.
Deron Williams gave the team its only double-double with 13 points and 11 assists as Team USA outscored Nigeria by a U.S. record 83 points in a 156-73 win. The point total shattered Brazil's 24-year-old Olympic record of 138 points from the 1988 Olympics and the differential pushed aside a 56-year-old record of the 1956 team, which beat Thailand by 72.
The Americans also set new U.S. marks for field goal percentage (71.1) and three-pointers, burying 29 of them. Ten of those came off the hands of Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 37 points a new U.S. record for a single-game. Five of Melo's 13 buckets in the game came off feeds from Deron, including four of his 10 threes.
In fact D-Will helped to facilitate nine of the 29 triples Team USA hit. Chris Paul, who assisted on four treys himself, said the outburst of treys was a result of ball movement and tempo, two things Team USA emphasized after a slow start against Tunisia on Tuesday.
"Coach K talked to me and D-Will and told us to really push the ball," Paul said. "He told us to not call any sets, you know what I mean? So you all noticed, even at the free throw line, we push it. We push it. And that's why our team is so dangerous in this tournament, if we don't call any sets and we just play off of one another, the game is a lot faster."
Paul got the start for Team USA with the same five-man unit that fell behind Tunisia 13-12 in the first seven minutes of Tuesday's game. But there would be no repeat performance as the Americans came out energized and piled up 13 points in less than three minutes Nigeria struggled to find an answer on either end.
That was only the beginning for Team USA, as they built a 25-11 lead before Deron and fellow reserves Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Andre Iguodala checked in with 3:53 left in the first quarter. Over the next four minutes, the reserve crew would nearly match the 25 points scored by the starters, led by Anthony's success from three.
Melo started the barrage with a trey from the right corner off a Westbrook feed. Moments later D-Will followed a Nigerian bucket with a coast-to-coast layup, then dished out to Westbrook on the next possession for a trey that made it 33-15. After a turnover by Nigeria, Westbrook returned the favor, dropping the ball off to D-Will for a layup after his steal created a 2-on-1 fastbreak.
That bucket pushed the U.S. lead to 20. Nigeria misfired on its next offensive possession, allowing Team USA to get out in transition and Deron found a trialing Melo for a trey from the right wing that forced another timeout by Nigeria with 2:09 to go in the quarter.
The brief break did nothing to disturb Team USA's rhythm. Following the timeout Deron assisted on three consecutive treys — one by Love and two by Carmelo — that inflated the American lead to 27 points with 48 seconds to go in the half. After missing all 14 first quarter three-point attempts they took in the first two games, Team USA knocked down 11-of-14 in the opening frame against Nigeria. They just missed out on a 50-point quarter, instead taking a 49-25 lead into the second, helped along by five assists from No. 8
The pace slowed considerably for Team USA in the second, but they still managed to outscore Nigeria 29-20 in the quarter. D-Will assisted on Team USA's first bucket of the quarter, a transition dunk by Anthony, but only played the first minute and a half of the quarter before he and the reserves gave way to the starters.
Deron returned to the game with 3:49 left in the half and Team USA in front 68-36. He picked up his seventh assist when he hit Anthony for a three with just under two minutes to go. Twenty seconds later, D-Will buried a three of his own to push the USA lead to 78-41. They took a 78-45 lead into halftime.
"We've had games before, even when we were playing in the friendly games, where we didn't hit threes and we had to win the game on the defensive end or doing other things," Anthony said. "Tonight was one of those games where we were hitting them."
It was more of the same in the second half as Anthony erupted for 18 points in the first five minutes of the frame. His first bucket came on a two and then he added a free throw moments later that made it a 33-point game again, 83-50.
But it was with about seven minutes to go in the quarter that Anthony really found his groove, taking over the game for a two-minute stretch in which he buried five consecutive threes and outscored Nigeria 15-4 all by himself. The fifth three of the barrage put Team USA at the century mark for points and ahead by 46 with 5:06 remaining in the third.
"What Carmelo did was unbelievable," Kevin Durant said. "Hopefully we keep it up. We passed the ball well, our guys were knocking down our shots, our point guards made sure we got open shots and we were able to knock them down."
D-Will returned shortly after the team had broken the century mark and added his own flavor over the final four minutes of the third with a free throw and two assists, on a Westbrook trey and a Love jumper. D-Will even go into the act on his own finishing a fastbreak with layup off the feed from James Harden to make it 113-60. Team USA cruised into the fourth quarter with a 119-62 lead.
The single game Olympic scoring record fell with 4:37 remaining in the fourth when Andre Iguodala sank a trey. James Harden followed with his own triple 31 seconds later and D-Will made it a barrage when he buried a three with 3:08 remaining to make it 145-68. They would tack on 11 more, 10 of them coming from Kevin Love. Deron fed Love for two of the four shots he hit during the game-closing span, his 10th and 11th assists of the game. Team USA finished with 41 dimes as a team, tying an American record and completing a dominating performance.
"We just shot better than any team in a game that I have ever coached," Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Our guys just couldn't miss tonight, and they shared the ball. We had 41 assists. When you hit 29 threes, it's very difficult to lose in a game like that."
Team USA will carry the momentum from Thursday's monumental will into the fourth game of pool play this Saturday as they take on Lithuania in a game that should be more competitive than Thursday's result.
Lithuania is currently fourth in Pool A at 1-2 in the tournament and a loss to Team USA could be perilous to their hopes of reaching the medal rounds. Only the top four teams in each pool advance to the quarterfinals, which begin next Wednesday.
The Americans last met Lithuania in the semi-finals of the FIBA World Championships in Turkey, a game Team USA won 89-74 behind 38 points from Kevin Durant in the way to FIBA gold. Lithuania was also a semi-finalist in the 2008 Olympics, but did not face Team USA during the tournament.
Tip-off of Saturday's game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. EDT and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Network.
- Nothing but Buckets (ESPN.com, August 2, 2012)
- Instant Analysis: Team USA 156, Nigeria 73 (ESPN.com, August 2, 2012)
- USA Sets All-Time Olympic Scoring Record in 156-73 Blowout Of Nigeria (USA Basketball, August 2, 2012)
- Additional Quotes >> USA 156, Nigeria 73 (USA Basketball, August 2, 2012)
- Magic Johnson lauds London squad (ESPN.com, August 3, 2012)
- Carmelo, Team USA dominate record books (ESPN.com, August 3, 2012)