D’Tigers faced Team USA to kick off their preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and shocked the basketball world with a 90-87 win over a team with the best NBA players.
There was Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Draymond Green, Jayson Tatum etc., but that didn’t matter for the D’Tigers.
Filled with foreign-born/based players, D’Tigers have Gabe Nnamdi Vincent of the Miami Heat, who led the team in scoring with 21 points.
Caleb Agada scored 17 points, Ike Nwamu added 13, and Nigeria outscored the U.S. 60-30 from 3-point range.
Durant, who had never played in a USA Basketball loss in 39 senior international games, had 17 points. Tatum added 15, Lillard had 14, and Bam Adebayo, who is of Nigerian descent, had 11.
Former NBA star Ike Iroegbu scored a three with about 1:15 left to put Nigeria up 88-80.
Durant fought back with seven straight points for the United States, but Nigeria got a three-point lead with Nnamdi’s two free throws with 13.2 seconds left.
The Americans failed to score in the next possession while Zach LaVine missed a pair of free throws.
Precious Achiuwa got the rebound for Nigeria, and that was it. It’s only an exhibition — but the upset was still of the massive variety, the 22nd-ranked nation by FIBA beating the No. 1-ranked team and three-time reigning Olympic gold medalists.
D’Tigers will continue their preparations for the Tokyo games with another exhibition game against Argentina on Monday, July 12 in Las Vegas.
“I thought that the Nigerian team played very physically, did a great job in that regard and knocked down a lot of 3s,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said before adding, “give them credit.”
It might be only a friendly game, but this is a massive feat for Nigeria. The Americans had not lost in 39 games their last three Olympic seasons, including pre-Olympic exhibitions.
They have won gold medals at six of the seven Olympic Games since 1992 when they started using active NBA stars.
Also, the last time Nigeria played the USA, which was at the 2016 Olympics, they lost by 44 points. The meeting before that, which was at the 2012 Olympics, they lost by 83 points.