Team USA lost to Nigeria 90-87 in an exhibition basketball game in Las Vegas on Saturday. It’s their first loss to an African team in history.
Nigeria, which had eight NBA players on their roster, exploded from downtown to drain 20 triples in the game. Gabe Vincent, an undrafted guard from the Miami Heat, was 6-8 in triples to score 21 points for Nigeria.
When USA and Nigeria met in the Summer Olympics in London in 2012, Nigeria lost by 83 points (156-73). Though Saturday’s game was no more than a warm-up, it’s still a great boost to the team’s confidence in Tokyo.
“We just wanted to compete,” said Nigeria’s Gabe Nnamdi. “We know what USA Basketball means around the world and what they’ve stood for for so long.”
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t mean much in the standings as far as where we’re trying to get to,” said Nigeria’s head coach Mike Brown. “But it’s a good win for us. I don’t think any African team has been able to beat USA Basketball in an exhibition game or a real game. … We’re trying to get a little bit of momentum for Nigeria and for the continent of Africa.”
Not every team in Tokyo can shoot 20-42 from beyond the arc against USA like Nigeria did, but a shorter 3-point line also means more players can punish the defense from outside.
When USA have Middleton and Holiday back, their switching defense will improve. But that won’t solve the team’s size problem, especially in the paint. Neither Draymond Green nor Adebayo is a full-sized big man. The pressure of protecting the rim and grabbing rebounds can get painfully great when they meet France and Rudy Gobert.
USA will meet France in their first group game on July 25.