If the United States thought winning gold at the coming Tokyo 2020 Olympics would be easy, they were handed a timely reality check by Nigeria’s basketball national team, D’Tigers, who came away from the exhibition match between both teams in Las Vegas with a 90-87 win.
While this was just an exhibition game, it is only the third time Team USA has lost in 57 exhibition games since 1992 and it is the first time Nigeria beat USA having lost by 83 points (156-73) at the 2012 Olympics and by 44 points (110-66) at an exhibition game in 2016.
Nigeria Basketball’s starting line-up had NBA players, including Miami Heat’s Kezie ‘KZ’ Okpala and Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves as the guards along with Gabe Vincent of the Miami Heat, while Ike Nwamu, who plays for Samara in the Russian Basketball Super League 1, and Precious Achiuwa of the Miami Heat were the forwards.
For the US, Kevin Durant was the biggest star in an offensive-based starting line-up which also had Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard in guard position, Jayson Tatum alongside Durant as a forward while Bam Adebayo faced his country of birth from the center position.
And it was Adebayo who got the game going, scoring the first four points for the US but Nigeria started the game confidently as well, raining in the points from three-point range to finish the first quarter just a point behind the US at 22-23.
The second quarter saw the US show some superiority as the gold medal favourites opened up a 10-point lead at some point in the quarter before Nigeria fought back to end the half just two points behind with scores at 43-41 in favour of the US.
D’Tigers showed more hustle than the US in the third quarter by outscoring their opponents with more good shooting from beyond the arc and head into the fourth quarter leading 66-64.
That lead soon opened up to eight points for D’Tigers in the fourth quarter as Mike Brown’s ballers continued to show their shooting range against the Americans who hustled to close the gap down to three points in the closing stages of the encounter.
Nigeria ended the game with 20 three-pointers made, with Vincent leading D’Tigers’ scorers by ending the night with 21 points and six triples made, so it was a bit of a surprise that Nigeria missed two free throws in the final seconds yet time had run out for the US to level scores as D’Tigers held on for a 90-87 win.