The United States lost to Nigeria 90-87 on Saturday night in their first exhibition game ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Here are five observations from what went down...
Nine years ago, at the 2012 London Olympics, the United States men's basketball team beat Nigeria by 83 points. On Saturday night, in the first exhibition game ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. lost by three points in what was a historic win for the country of Nigeria and a cold reminder to the United States squad that nothing is guaranteed.
Nigeria putting up a good fight was no fluke, as they have come a long way as a basketball program since London. They have an NBA head coach in Mike Brown, associate head coach of the Warriors. Nigeria's roster features a host of NBA players like Precious Achiuwa (Heat), Chimezie Metu (Kings), Josh Okogie (T'Wolves) and KZ Okpala (Heat).
Where Nigeria hurt the United States most was at the 3-point line. They made a ridiculous 20 threes in a 40-minute game. That's not easy to do, but they just couldn't miss.
Unfortunately, stats weren't available online for this game, but Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard carried a lot of the offensive load. Durant, though, shot poorly and Tatum missed a key layup in the closing minutes. No one was particularly sharp for the U.S.
The starting five
Head coach Gregg Popovich rolled out a starting lineup of Lillard, Bradley Beal, Durant, Tatum and Bam Adebayo. Beal was essentially in there over Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine, who served as the backup shooting guard.
During a timeout interview, assistant coach Steve Kerr made sure to note this isn't a permanent starting lineup by any means.
Trio of absences
Team USA was down three players who are currently competing in the NBA Finals -- Phoenix's Devin Booker, and Milwaukee's Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton. Select Team members Darius Garland, Saddiq Bey and Keldon Johnson were promoted to the senior squad in their absence.
Achiuwa vs. Durant
The best play from this game was a block by Achiuwa on Durant. Durant tried to put him on a poster, but the Heat big man who just finished his rookie season got higher in the air and delivered a big-time rejection. It was the one viral moment from the game.
Durant shot just 3-for-13 but did make two clutch threes late in the fourth. He also had a tough fadeaway over two defenders in the first half. Once he gets his rhythm back, expect to see much better shooting lines from him.
Beal and Tatum's kids
Beal playing with Tatum on Team USA is a great story, as the two grew up together in St. Louis, went to the same high school and remain very good friends. At halftime, the NBC Sports Network broadcast showed Beal and Tatum's sons playing together. They both have a son named Deuce, while Beal also has a second son named Braylon.
That was a great moment. But Tatum isn't the only member of Team USA with a connection to Beal. There is also Darius Garland, the young Cavaliers guard, who played for Brad Beal Elite, Beal's AAU team. Beal and Garland shared the floor briefly in the loss.
Team USA will be back in action Monday night against Australia at 8 p.m. ET. The game will be aired on NBC Sports Network.