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Team USA wins by 83 points? Yes, 83 points

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Team USA wins by 83 points? Yes, 83 points

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- Carmelo Anthony couldn't believe it. He threw back his head and shrugged his shoulders. The Olympics had never seen shooting like this, and may not ever again. Not on the basketball court, anyway. The U.S. men's team rewrote the record books Thursday in a 156-73 romp over Nigeria, a blowout that answered the Americans' detractors after two opening routs that provoked criticism of their slow starts and outside shooting. Knocking down shots from every corner of the arena, the U.S. made an incredible 30 of 37 attempts inside the arc (81 percent) and hit almost as many times behind it, more than doubling their previous high with 29 3-pointers. Anthony made 10 of his 12 3-pointers in his 37-point performance, accuracy that any Olympic archer would take. But what if the Americans keep it up at the London Games? "When they shoot like this, I don't know if there is any team that can beat them," Nigeria's Ike Diogu said. Spain and Russia would be much tougher tests for the U.S. than Nigeria was, but there is no defense for a team having the kind of night the Americans had. Not when they are already the most athletic team in the world, with perimeter shooting supposedly one of their few weaknesses. Well, scratch shooting from that list. The only risk for the Americans now, with five more games before they can win gold, may be that they used up too many makes Thursday night. "I hope we saved some for other games," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. Even the 1992 Dream Team never won this easily. 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 Americans led by 26 in the first quarter, had an Olympic-record 78 points in the first half and Anthony broke the U.S. single-game Olympic scoring record in less than three quarters. "Our guys just couldn't miss," Krzyzewski said. Incredibly, they eclipsed the 100-point mark with 5 minutes still left 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 left, 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 seemed intent on breaking Nigeria's spirit, and when that was accomplished with ease, they made a profound statement with their marksmanship. 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. Russell Westbrook finished with 21 points, Kevin Love 15 and Kevin Durant 14 for the U.S., which will play Lithuania on Saturday. The Americans have won their first three games with ease, but now things are expected to get a lot tougher as they approach next week's medal round. Diogu scored 27 to lead Nigeria (1-2), which was as good as done after Durant hit a 3-pointer 11 seconds in, snapping an 0-for-14 slump by the U.S. in the first quarter in the tourney. Bryant was mostly a non-factor in wins over France and Tunisia, playing just 21 minutes and getting into early foul trouble. But from the outset against Nigeria, the two-time Olympian nicknamed the Black Mamba was as deadly as ever. He set the tone by scoring seven quick points as the U.S. (3-0) raced to a 13-0 lead, a haymaker that stunned the Nigerians. Durant buried three 3-pointers, Bryant and Anthony added two from long-range and when Love, the NBA's 3-point champion, came off the bench and knocked down his first three, the U.S. team's shooting gallery of stars had opened a 41-15 lead and made the announcer's pregame comment that "anything is possible" seem prophetic. He was talking about a possible upset. The only surprise in the first quarter was when the U.S. missed. "We were looking forward to this game, playing against the U.S.," Diogu said. "You know we wanted to use this to show the world what type of team we are. We just came out flat, turned the ball over too many times and they made us pay every time." After starting so sluggishly in blowout wins over France and Tunisia, the U.S. came flying out of the gates, led by Bryant. The Americans seemed intent on breaking Nigeria's spirit, and when that was accomplished with ease, they made a profound statement with their marksmanship. Anthony, who made five 3-pointers in the first half, put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter. With the U.S. bench standing in anticipation every time he touched the ball on the perimeter, Anthony made all five of his attempts, punctuating one that made it 97-54 by throwing back his head, laughing and shrugging his shoulders. He was in a zone unlike any seen before. "It's a great accomplishment to get that record," said Anthony, who broke Stephon Marbury's scoring mark of 31 against Spain in 2004. "We did it in a very highly classy way. We went out there and we played basketball. We made shots. We make shots like that and play the way we played tonight, that record could have came on any team." Anthony wasn't the lone sniper as the Americans made 29 of 46 3-pointers (63 percent), numbers that could stand for several more Olympiads. Although an Olympic rookie, Nigeria, with 10 players who played college ball in the U.S., also has its share of pro experience. Diogu, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., after his parents emigrated from Africa, has played for eight NBA teams and Al-Farouq, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, was traded last year by the Los Angeles Clippers to New Orleans in the deal for U.S. guard Chris Paul. But there isn't a team in the Olympics that can match the American's celebrated roster with a combined 43 All-Star appearances, seven NBA titles and four league MVPs. Krzyzewski gave his players the day off on Wednesday, a chance to relax and enjoy the games. Anthony and James Harden went to see boxing. Durant watched beach volleyball. They came back rested. And on target.

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In a game that was all about offense, it was a penalty kill the sealed the win for the Caps

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USA TODAY Sports

In a game that was all about offense, it was a penalty kill the sealed the win for the Caps

The big story out of Wednesday's win was the return of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as linemates. The new lines sparked the Caps' offense as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead over the Ottawa Senators. But despite the offensive burst, it was a key penalty kill in the second period that won the game.

Midway through the second period, Ottawa forward Ryan Dzingel finally stopped the bleeding with a goal to make it 4-1. At that point, the game was still seemingly well in hand. Washington had dominated to that point and there was no reason to think the Senators would come back. Even when Dzingel scored the goal, it did not feel like momentum was shifting back in the Senators' favor.

That all changed 30 seconds later.

Alex Ovechkin was called for high-sticking and when play was stopped, Nicklas Backstrom tussled with Ben Harpur and both players were sent to the box leading to a 4-on-3 for Ottawa. Just 44 seconds in, Tom Wilson was called for a slash giving the Senators 1:16 of a two-man advantage to work with. Just one goal would have made it a game. The deficit would have been cut to 2 with over a period remaining.

A game that had seemed all but over suddenly seemed to be somewhat in doubt. Yes, Ottawa still had a steep hill to climb, but a power play goal would have made a comeback seem possible.

But then, the Caps' much-maligned penalty kill unit stepped up and killed off both penalties to keep the lead at 4-1.

How important was that kill?

"When we're on 5-on-3 that was huge," Barry Trotz said after the game. "They didn't score there, I knew we were going to win. I didn't know just by how much, but I knew we were going to win."

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Best moments from Wizards' loss to Hornets, including Oubre and Beal's big dunks

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USA Today Sports

Best moments from Wizards' loss to Hornets, including Oubre and Beal's big dunks

Here are the best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 129-124 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night...

1. The Wizards couldn't do much to stop Dwight Howard in this one, but he did have one of his shots blocked. It was by the rim, though.

Watch Howard rise for an alley-oop, only to be rejected by the rim. 

That was about the only thing Howard did wrong. He finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

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2. Bradley Beal didn't have a great shooting night, as he finished 7-for-22 despite dropping 22 points. He had a few nice dunks in the first half including this one:

3. John Wall had a strong game with 31 points and 11 assists on 13-of-26 shooting. This was his best assist, a thread-the-needle dish to Markieff Morris.

4. Here's another dunk from Beal, this one with two hands for good measure:

5. This was the best dunk of the night. Kelly Oubre, Jr. caught the Hornets sleeping with a nice putback slam. 

The Wizards closed their road trip a disappointing 1-2, but at least the game was entertaining.

[RELATED: BEAL'S BIG MILESTONE BY THE NUMBERS]