- ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010
- Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years
- Author of two books
LAS VEGAS — Team USA suffered a stunning and sobering defeat in its first exhibition basketball game before the Olympics, getting outplayed by Nigeria in a 90-87 loss Saturday night.
Coming into the game, the Americans had been 54-2 in exhibition games since professionals started playing in 1992. Nine years ago, they beat Nigeria by 83 points in the London Olympics. Five years ago, Team USA beat Nigeria by 43 points in an exhibition.
Nigeria has five current NBA players, and that talent showed, particularly in the physical defense and the 3-point shooting. But the Americans started five All-NBA players and were out-executed.
Team USA, which had four days of practice this week, played a very isolation-heavy game, as it was clear there wasn’t much chemistry yet developed. But with players such as Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, it has some of the best isolation players in the world.
But all three were rusty and bothered by the opposition’s size, combining to shoot 9-of-30. Durant finished with 15 points but made just two of his first 11 shots, as Nigeria built an eight-point lead with less than two minutes to play.
The Americans made a furious rally and twice had the ball with a chance to tie, but their execution was poor. After Team USA coach Gregg Popovich called his last timeout with 13 seconds to play, the ensuing possession was messy and resulted in no points.
Nigeria made a crushing 20 of 42 3-pointers, repeatedly passing its way through Team USA rotations in racking up 21 assists. Guard Gabe Vincent, who plays for the Miami Heat, made 6 of 8 3-pointers and finished with 21 points. Caleb Agada, who plays in the Israeli league, made three 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.
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