Nigeria Stuns Kevin Durant, Team USA 90-87 in Exhibition Before 2021 Tokyo Olympics
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
The Nigerian men’s basketball national team made 20 three-pointers en route to defeating Team USA 90-87 in an Olympic exhibition matchup from Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent led Nigeria’s three-point barrage by making 6-of-8 shots from downtown en route to 21 points. Caleb Agada hit all three of his three-pointers en route to 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
For Team USA, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant had 17 points, and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum added 15.
Team USA had a chance to tie the game after coming out of a timeout with 13.2 seconds remaining, but they did not get a shot off before shooting guard Zach LaVine was fouled with 3.5 seconds remaining.
LaVine missed both of his free-throw attempts, leading to Miami Heat center Precious Achiuwa’s defensive rebound.
Achiuwa went to the free-throw line with a chance to ice the game for Nigeria, but he also missed both free throws with 1.4 seconds left.
A scramble for a loose ball ensued, and it ended in Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard’s hands. A desperate full-court heave for the tie did not connect, and Nigeria pulled off the stunning upset after a terrific performance.
This win was not a fluke: Nigeria was clearly the better team on this night, as evidenced by its fantastic shooting display and tough defense.
Still, it was a stunning result given the pregame expectations plus Team USA’s past history against Nigeria.
B/R Betting noted the sportsbook figures prior to the game:
The last game between these two teams notably ended with Team USA winning 110-66 in the run-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Team USA also beat Nigeria 156-73 during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
This year’s team has five more exhibition matchups before the Summer Olympics, which begin on Friday, July 23. Team USA has a long way to go in search of its fourth straight Olympic gold, and after the game, head coach Gregg Popovich took a more optimistic, long-term view of the loss.
“In a way, I’m kind of glad it happened,” Popovich said, per Ben Golliver of the Washington Post. “That means nothing if we don’t learn from it. It could be the most important thing in this tournament for us.”
On the other sideline, it’s a tremendous moment for ex-NBA head coach (and current Nigerian national team head coach) Mike Brown, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic noted:
The program has certainly been transformed.
Nigerian national team isn’t short on NBA talent: Three members of the Miami Heat (Achiuwa, Vincent and KZ Okpala) were in the starting lineup alongside Minnesota Timberwolves wing Josh Okogie.
That doesn’t include the non-NBA talents, including Agada, who plays for Hapoel Be’er Sheva of the Israeli Premier League.
Their collective effort was nothing short of sensational against a team loaded with All-Star talent:
Granted, three of those players (Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks) were unavailable due to their ongoing participation in the NBA Finals, but the rest of that crew is made up of current or former NBA All-Stars outside Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant, who just averaged a career-high 22.3 points per game.
Team USA will look to rebound in its next exhibition matchup against Australia at 8 p.m. ET on Monday.
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