Team USA Puts on Record Performance
Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten
Records were falling at London’s Basketball Arena Thursday almost as regularly as Team USA baskets.
The United States scored seemingly at will on their way to a 156-73 victory over Nigeria in Group A pool play at the Summer Games.
They made 29 of their 46 3-pointers (63%) and toppled the single-game scoring mark in the process, moving to 3-0 in the preliminary round, one game ahead of Argentina and France.
“Tonight was just one of those nights where as a unit, we had it going,” reserve forward Carmelo Anthony said. “It could have been anybody out there on the court playing against us. When we shoot like that, shoot that well, the percentages that we shot out there tonight – it was just incredible.”
The team shot 71.1% from the field and the Knicks star finished with United States records in points (37) and made threes (10). During one stretch in the third quarter, Clippers point guard Chris Paul found Anthony for three of his five consecutive 3-pointers that extended the U.S. lead to 100-54 with 5:06 to go in the period.
“It was crazy,” said Paul, referring to Anthony’s hot streak from behind the arc. “And for a guy like me who thrives on finding guys when they get like that, me and D-Will [Deron Williams] were just out there having fun because we have the capability of making everyone think that we’re out there about to try and go score, and it was great to see two people on me knowing that Carmelo was open.”
Paul was quiet through much of the first half, but picked it up late. He scored seven points with seven assists, two rebounds, and two steals in 22 minutes.
Several times in the 49-point first quarter, Paul was still the initiator of plays that led to 3-pointers, including twice finding Lebron James who immediately dished to Kevin Durant for an open jumper. Durant had 14 points, including 4-of-7 from distance.
After the game, Paul marveled at Team USA’s overall shooting ability. “Look at our team, everybody can shoot that ball,” he said. “Everybody can step out to the three [and hit the shot]. Even AD [Anthony Davis] made one out in Vegas.”
On Thursday, Paul connected with Davis a little closer to the rim, slinging the ball over his shoulder to the Hornets’ rookie for an alley-oop in the fourth quarter. Paul also got in on the long-range shooting, stealing a pass at midcourt, dribbling ahead, and draining a flat-footed 3-pointer from the left wing after no Nigerian defender contested him.
His first basket came with 8:01 left in the third quarter when he used a Durant screen to avoid his man and flipped up a runner in the lane over Olumide Oyedeji.
Team USA eclipsed the single-game scoring mark of 138 points, formerly held by Brazil, at the 4:37 mark in the fourth. They also secured the greatest margin of victory in the history of the Summer Games, surpassing the 1956 Bill Russell-led U.S. squad that defeated Thailand by 72.
After missing all of their 14 3-pointers in the first quarter of their opening games of the tournament, the United States went 11-of-14 from 3-point range in the first period Thursday.
“It’s a good feeling [to set records],” Paul said. “We always try to make our mark, somehow, some way, and this is all well and good, but the mark that we want to leave is to leave with another gold medal.”
Nigeria fell into a 13-0 hole before Al-Farouq Aminu made two free throws halfway through the first quarter for his team’s first points of the night. The former Clipper finished with seven points, three rebounds, and four assists. Another one-time Clipper, Ike Diogu, scored a team-high 27 on 11-of-17 shooting.
FRANCE WINS SECOND IN A ROW
Team France used their upset of Argentina two days ago as a springboard Thursday, taking out Lithuania, 82-74, in the opening game of the day at the Basketball Arena.
Tony Parker scored a game-high 27 points, Nicolas Batum had 21, and Clippers big man Ronny Turiaf added arguably his best game of the tournament, scoring six points with a game-high 10 rebounds.
Les Bleus is 2-1 in second place behind the United States in Group A. They play Tunisia Saturday at 1 a.m. PT.
After trailing by four at halftime, France somewhat put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring Lithuania, 20-9. Turiaf grabbed half of his rebounds in the quarter and chipped in four of his six points.