Nigeria — Team USA’s opponent in the late game Thursday — is better than Tunisia, the USA’s last opponent.
Nigeria beat Tunisia by four points. Vegas odds makers have the USA as 42 point favorites, which is closer than predicted against Tunisia (it was a 54 points spread, a number the Tunisians covered). The two meet in a game that starts at 5:15 ET (live on the NBC Sports Network).
Nigeria isn’t going to put up much of a test for the Americans, who should run away and hide early. The USA is vastly superior at every position on the floor and this should be another chance for Mike Krzyzewski to get into his bench and give guys a lot of run. As he did the last game. Do look for Kevin Durant — who leads Team USA in scoring (17.5 per game) and rebounding (9.5) to get his, but anyone on the USA roster can put up numbers in this one.
Nigeria has two players that will be familiar to NBA fans. One is former Clippers lottery pick Al-Farouq Aminu, who was traded to New Orleans in the Chris Paul deal (and is now teammates with Team USA’s Anthony Davis). Aminu averaged 6 points and 4.7 rebounds a game last season, shot just 41 percent, doesn’t have great handles for a wing and generally shows promise but is not making NBA fans think he will live up to it.
Aminu has averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds through two games in London. Expect the USA to pressure him when he has the ball to get it out of his hands.
The leading scorer and rebounder for Nigeria has been former NBA player Ike Diogu, who has averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds a game. Diogu is an undersized (6’8”) forward who couldn’t get off the Spurs bench last season. He has some tools and is using the Olympics as a showcase to get a new NBA contract. That said, he is not a guy who can really exploit the “undersized” USA inside. Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love should have their way with him.
Look for the USA to experiment with lineups and throw a lot of lobs to Anthony Davis. There isn’t a lot else to do.
This should be another game that is only close if the USA doesn’t take it seriously. Things will get more challenging with Lithuania then Argentina next on the schedule, but for today this should be a stroll through Hyde Park for Team USA.
NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo will receive the Sager Strong Award at this year’s NBA Awards show.
The award is named for longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager and presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.
Mutombo’s honor was announced Tuesday by the NBA and Turner.
The four-time Defensive Player of the Year created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve conditions for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital has treated nearly a quarter of a million people since opening in 2007.
He will receive a colorful suit jacket, the kind Sager fashioned during his years on air before dying of leukemia. The award will be presented on June 25 in Santa Monica, California.
Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.
It wasn’t just Lonzo Ball‘s awkward jumper that was a problem for him, so was his finishing around the rim — Ball shot less than 50 percent in the restricted area and 43.6 percent inside eight feet. In today’s NBA, he has to become more of a consistent scoring threat to open up his passing lanes.
Part of that is Ball getting physically stronger, something that also would help him avoid injuries and play in more than 52 games (what he did as a rookie). That part he is working on already, Kyle Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
“Consistency in the weight room, that is the biggest thing,” Kuzma said on Tuesday of what he has seen out of Ball this offseason so far. “He has been in there pretty much every day I have been in here around this time. You can tell he is taking the weight room a lot more serious and that is going to help him by allowing him to recover faster and hopefully next year be on the court more because of that weight room.”
The Lakers are counting on the development of their young core — Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — as well as free agents they can attract this summer to lift them into the playoffs next season.
Magic Johnson told Ball this is going to be the most important summer of his life, that now he has to put in the work to take his body and game to the next level. To play like a No. 2 pick.
So far, so good.
After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team ran out of gas, which is what led to their 3-of-18 fourth-quarter shooting and just 12 points. There’s some truth to that, particularly with Andre Iguodala out forcing other guys into the rotation and a heavier load on the stars.
But give the Rockets credit here.
Part of what wore down the Warriors was fantastic pressure defense from Houston that made Golden State really work on offense. As Golden State got tired, players settled for midrange jumpers, not getting to the rim much (three times in the quarter) and not having the legs under their threes (0-of-6 in the quarter).
Meanwhile, it wasn’t pretty, but James Harden and Chris Paul were making plays.
Check out those plays again in the video above — we finally got a good game in a series, we should savor that.
The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.
It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.
The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.
Kerr addressed the decision after the game.
You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.
When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.
In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.