LONDON The U.S. has been cruising through round-robin play in men’s basketball, but the score from Thursday night’s game against Nigeria raised eyebrows at the Olympics.
The U.S. won by an astonishing 156-73 margin to set an Olympic record for points – and those 156 points came 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 bristled at the idea. I wasn’t at the game – I was covering Olympic swimming at the same time – but here’s the transcription of Coach K’s response, provided by USA Basketball.
Said Krzyzewski: “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,” Krzyzewski continued, “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., including former Wake Forest standout Al-Farouq Aminu. But on defense, Nigeria camped out in the lane for much of the game, giving the U.S. wide-open three3-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 (out of 46 attempts), it’s very difficult to lose.”
I believe 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 3-pointers, that makes it worse. I really 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 – against Lithuania (1-2) Saturday and Argentina (2-1) Monday. Coach K gave his players Friday off from practice and a number of them scattered to different Olympic events.
• Incidentally, do you know what they call Coach K in all the official quote sheets distributed by the Olympic News Service? Michael Krzyzewski.
• I know I’m not in America when I see this: London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper put out a 40-page Olympics special section with live coverage on Friday. The first eight pages were all about cycling.
The all-around women’s gymnastics gold medal won by American Gabby Douglas warranted one paragraph and no picture whatsoever. It was on page 36.