LONDON -- The U.S. has been cruising through round-robin play in men’s basketball, but the score from Thursday night against Nigeria raised eyebrows.
The U.S. won by an astonishing 156-73 margin – and that was in a 40-minute game. Team USA made 29 three-pointers and Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points in a little more than 14 minutes. After the game in his news conference, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked whether his squad had taken steps to avoid humiliating the Nigerian team.
Coach K got his back up on that one. I wasn’t at the game – I was covering swimming at the same time – but here’s the transcription of Coach K’s response, provided by USA basketball.
Said Coach K: “Obviously the first thing we did was not play LeBron and Kobe in the second half. The second thing was, even with Carmelo shooting like that [10-of-12 from three-point range], we benched him. We didn’t play [Kevin Durant]. We didn’t take any fast breaks in the fourth quarter, and we played all zone. You have to take a shot every 24 seconds, and the shots we took happened to be hit. I take offense to his question, because there’s no way in the world that our program in the United States is ever out to humiliate anyone.”
Nigeria’s team did have 10 players who had played college basketball in the U.S. But Nigeria camped out in the lane for much of the game, giving the U.S. wide-open three-pointers.
“We shot the ball better than any team in a game I have ever coached,” Krzyzewski said. “Our guys just couldn’t miss tonight. When you hit 29 threes, it’s very difficult to lose.”
I would say this: Krzyzewski’s explanation makes sense. When you’ve got a team with so much talent, it’s hard to keep them from scoring.
And when the other team plays defense by allowing open three-pointers, that makes it worse. I don’t think Krzyzewski would ever purposely run up the score against an overmatched team like Nigeria – what’s the fun in that?
The U.S. has two more games before advancing to the knockout round. Coach K gave the players Friday off from practice and a number of them are expected to watch the Olympic swim meet tonight, where they will see Cullen Jones compete in the men’s 50 freestyle final.