Nigerian National Basketball Team, the D’Tigers was defeated 110-66 by the USA Basketball Team in their last game of its exhibition tour of the United States.
With both teams now headed to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, here is our takeaway from the game.
The luxury of having Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant: Nobody has an answer for them
What separates USA Basketball from the rest of the world (when the program truly cares about being the best it can be) is its speed, versatility and incredible overall skill. Some countries will have good point guard play but won’t have the wings to run with them and finish. Other teams will have the weapons on the wings but won’t have the point guards to maximize their scoring opportunities. The U.S. obviously has the luxury and advantage of this never being a problem, even when it has to dip deeper into its pool of players because some of the brightest stars decided to sit out the Rio extravaganza.
Part of that speed-versatility-skill triumvirate is shown in Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant just being utterly unfair at the international level. Most nights, especially for KD, they’re unfair in the greatest league in the world. Now give them even more of an advantage with lesser competition and they score in waves you can’t handle. It’s one thing to have one of these guys. USA has two of them (and that’s not even counting what Paul George will probably do when he’s on the court) and they can play them at the same time.
Durant had 14 points on seven field-goal attempts in 22 minutes against Nigeria. That pushed his total to 64 points on 36 shots in 78 minutes for the five exhibition games. Carmelo Anthony, despite shooting poorly from 3-point range, scored 19 points in 19 minutes against Nigeria. His total in five games ended up being 68 points on 56 shots in 95 minutes, and the scary thing is he didn’t even play that well during the tour.
This Nigerian team is much better than what we saw back in 2012
Back in 2012, Nigeria qualified for their first Olympic games in basketball. They even got their first Olympic victory by beating Tunisia. It was a big moment for the country’s basketball program, which actually now sports quite a bit of pro talent. But they weren’t ready for their group-play showdown with Team USA, and with the way the U.S. was hitting shots, I’m not sure anybody could have handled it that day. The Americans ended up beating Nigeria 156-73. That’s right; they beat Nigeria by 83 points. It was both embarrassing and yet almost a rite of passage for a blossoming basketball program on the world stage.
Nigeria had made the 2012 Olympics through one of the final qualifying tournaments. This year, it qualified for the Olympics earlier by winning the 2015 AfroBasket tournament. It was a sign of progress. While Nigeria lost Monday by a considerable margin (44 points), we at least saw a much better showing in this exhibition than we saw in 2012.
Granted, USA Basketball is missing some key names like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, but Nigeria is also missing Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli. Those names aren’t on par with the U.S. absentee list in terms of talent and their status in the NBA, but those are significant losses for the Nigerian program. To at least come out and put up a fight the way they did shows some pretty impressive progress. And that’s with them going 4 for 29 from 3-point range, which was helped only by some late makes by Chamberlain “Champ” Oguchi in this game.