Basketball

Nigeria Shocks USA’s NBA Basketball Team in Pre-Olympic Opener

USA had not lost an exhibition game since 2019

Nigeria pulled off an international shocker after defeating the U.S. men’s basketball team 90-87 on Saturday night in its first exhibition game ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Nigeria defeated a Team U.S.A. roster stacked with All-N.B.A. players, at Mandalay Bay Arena in Las Vegas. It was the first win by an African team over the U.S. men’s national team.

The loss drops Team U.S.A.’s record to 54-3 in exhibition games held since 1992, when N.B.A. players were first allowed to play in the Olympics.

The team had not lost an exhibition game since 2019, a 98-94 upset by Australia ahead of the FIBA World Cup.

Only nine years ago, the United States beat Nigeria, 156-73, at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Kevin Durant, who had never before played in a loss for USA Basketball in 39 senior international games, had 17 points. Jayson Tatum added 15, Damian Lillard had 14 and Bam Adebayo 11.

The trio was held to 9 of 30 shooting from the field, and their teammates looked out of sync after the recent end of the N.B.A. postseason and a short turnaround from the previous season.

Players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry dropped out of consideration for the Olympics, but the roster is still stacked with players who are expected to win gold in Tokyo.

Nigeria’s roster includes a handful of N.B.A. players, including Chimezie Metu of the Sacramento Kings, Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miye Oni of the Utah Jazz. The team is coached by Mike Brown, a Golden State Warriors assistant.

Nigeria converted nearly half of its 40 3-point attempts against Team U.S.A.

Ike Iroegbu, who played at Washington State, made a 3-pointer with just over a minute left and pushed Nigeria to an 88-80 lead. Durant responded with seven straight points.

The Miami Heat’s Gabe Vincent, who scored a game-high 21 points, sank two free throws with 13.2 seconds left, helping cement the upset as Team U.S.A. failed to execute a play out of a timeout called in the game’s final seconds.

“That loss means nothing if we don’t learn from it, but it can be the most important thing in this tournament for us to learn lessons from it,” the U.S. coach, Gregg Popovich, told reporters afterward.

The Americans had gone 39-0 in their last three Olympic seasons — including pre-Olympic exhibitions — on their way to gold medals and had been 54-2 in major exhibitions since NBA players began playing for USA Basketball in 1992. 

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