The U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team beat Nigeria 156-73 on Thursday night, an epic blowout that answered the Americans’ detractors and sent a clear message to let them be.
After two opening routs that provoked criticism of their slow starts and outside shooting, the Americans rewrote the record books.
They led by 26 in the first quarter, had an Olympic-record 78 points in the first half and Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points, including 10 of 12 3-pointers, to break the U.S. single-game scoring record in less than three quarters.
“Our guys just couldn’t miss,” said coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Incredibly, they eclipsed the 100-point mark with 5 minutes still remaining in the third.
“When we get hot, it’s a big problem,” Kobe Bryant said. “So you have all these guys on one team and then all get hot on the same night, it’s tough.”
They broke the Olympic record for most points in a game with 4:37 still to play, and set U.S. records for 3-pointers (26), field goals (59) and field-goal percentage (71).
When Andre Iguodala hit a 3-pointer with 4:37 to go, the Americans had surpassed the previous Olympic record of 138 points set by Brazil against Egypt in 1988. When the record was announced to the mesmerized crowd, all the players seated on the U.S. bench got up and walked single file past Krzyzewski, slapping hands with him and his staff.
Gentlemen, take a bow.
“It was just one of them nights where as a unit we had it going,” Anthony said. “It could have been anybody out on the court playing against us.”
The Americans even one-upped the 1992 Dream Team. The 83-point margin of victory was the largest in U.S. national team history, eclipsing the 79-point spread when Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Co. beat Cuba 136-57 in their first game.
The U.S. seemed intent on breaking Nigeria’s spirit, and when that was accomplished with ease, the Americans made a profound statement with their marksmanship.
Nigeria was the first to get the message.
“When they shoot like this, I don’t know if there is any team that can beat them,” said Ike Diogu, one of the Nigerians and a former NBA player.
Bryant scored 16 points — 14 in the first quarter — for the Americans, who scored 49 points in the first, left the floor leading 78-45 at half and then doubled their total in the second half.