At the end of this month, after a one-year delay, the Olympic Games will start in Tokyo, Japan. For the Americans, this is the competition that matters the most, especially when we talk about basketball. Team USA wants to return home with the gold medals to show that their poor performance at the World Cup was a small mistake. Indeed, at the 2019 World Cup, Team USA finished in 7th place, being beaten by France and Serbia.
However, the players coached by Gregg Popovich didn’t start their preparation very well. Last night, in Las Vegas, Nigeria stunned the USA with a 90-87 win that raises many questions. The Africans scored 20 three-pointers, and their main scorers were Gabe Vincent (21 points) and Caleb Agada (17 points). On the other side, Kevin Durant finished with 17 points, Jason Tatum had 15 points, and Damian Lillard added 14 points.
This win by Nigeria is incredible. Nine years ago, at the Olympic Games held in London, they lost against the US by a margin of 83 points: 73-156. Then, in 2016, in an exhibition game, Nigeria lost again by a huge margin: 66-110. However, this time, coach Mike Brown built a strong roster that dominated the best team in the world. Actually, the Americans never had the lead in the last quarter.
So, the main question this result raises is the following: Is Team USA ready to win the Olympic gold medal? Nigeria is a good team, but Europe has even better teams. Spain looks great, France can dominate in the paint, Slovenia has Luka Doncic, and Italy showed great potential. Besides that, Australia and Argentina can also play at a high level.
Of course, Team USA has the best roster, with every player coming from the NBA. Popovich has big names in his team, like Durant, Lillard, Tatum, and Booker. However, the Americans should stop underestimating their opponents and should start playing as they did in 2008 and 2012. If not, they will have another shameful experience.
*photo: Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images