Already up 57 points entering the fourth quarter Thursday, Team USA beat Nigeria 37-11 in the final frame. They were knocking down threes, creating turnovers and continuing to put up points.
When the historic beatdown had finished and the USA won by 83, some were calling it poor sportsmanship — they say the USA tried to humiliate Nigeria, that the USA kept pouring it on when they should have eased up.
I don’t buy it. This isn’t U8 soccer, mom isn’t passing out orange slices after the game and everybody doesn’t get a medal. This is where the big boys play.
USA coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t having any of it either, saying they tried to ease up. Here are his comments, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
“We didn’t play LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] in the second half, and with Carmelo shooting like that, we benched him,” Krzyzewski said. “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 this question because there’s no way in the world that our program in the United States sets out to humiliate anyone.”
If this had been a Duke game, Krzyzewski would have sent in those guys at the end of the bench who are actually there for a Duke education. The drop off in talent from the starters to the end of the bench is pretty steep, as it is on pretty much every other team on the planet.
When Krzyzewski empties the Team USA bench it is Russell Westbrook and James Harden and Anthony Davis. The drop off is to All-Stars and the NCAA Player of the Year, all better than anyone on the Nigerian team. And this just happened to be one of those nights where all the USA players seemed hot — they shot 71 percent as a team.
No matter what Krzyzewski does, he can’t slow the engine down too much. Meanwhile Nigeria is turning the ball over and jacking up bad shots early in the clock, giving the USA easy chances.
This is the big time. There are no mercy rules because the Olympics are supposed to be the world’s best competing against each other. The fact that the USA’s best was that much better than Nigeria’s best on this day was unfortunate.
But humiliation? Poor sportsmanship? That’s not what the USA tried to do. They were just that good.