Team USA basketball is used to rolling out the balls and taking home a victory in its Olympics games. The team was 39-0 in its last three Olympic seasons, including exhibitions.
Make that 39-1 after Saturday night. That’s when upstart Team Nigeria smacked a US team led by all-world forward Kevin Durant by the score of 90-87. It was only an exhibition game, but it sends a message that Olympics gold is not guaranteed for a US squad led by some of the NBA’s greats.
Team USA had to feel confident heading into the game. The US has beaten Nigeria by 127 points in its last two meetings, one at the 2012 London Olympics, the other a warm-up exhibition for the 2016 Rio games.
But the Nigerian team, made up mostly of fringe NBA players with a few college stars, wasn’t having it.
“I thought that the Nigerian team played very physically, did a great job in that regard and knocked down a lot of 3s,” US coach Gregg Popovich said. “Give them credit.”
Gabe Nnamdi, who goes by Gabe Vincent when playing for the Miami Heat, led Nigeria with 21 points. Caleb Agada scored 17 points, Ike Nwamu added 13 and Nigeria outscored the US 60-30 from 3-point range.
The Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant has never played for the losing side in USA Basketball. He had 17 points, with Boston’s Jayson Tatum adding 15, Portland’s Damian Lillard with 14, and Miami’s Bam Adebayo with 11.
“Just goes to show that we have to play better,” Tatum said.