Olympics 2012: Carmelo Anthony, Team USA enjoy record-setting day
Bryant scored 16 points — 14 in the first quarter — for the Americans, who scored 49 points in the first, left the floor leading 78-45 at half and then doubled their total in the second half.
Russell Westbrook finished with 21 points, Kevin Love 15 and Kevin Durant 14 for the U.S., which will play Lithuania on Saturday. The Americans have won their first three games with ease, but now things are expected to get a lot tougher as they approach next week’s medal round.
Bryant was mostly a non-factor in wins over France and Tunisia, playing just 21 minutes and getting into early foul trouble. But from the outset against Nigeria, the two-time Olympian nicknamed the Black Mamba was as deadly as ever. He set the tone by scoring seven quick points as the U.S. (3-0) raced to a 13-0 lead, a haymaker that stunned the Nigerians.
Durant buried three 3-pointers, Bryant and Anthony added two from long-range and when Love, the NBA’s 3-point champion, came off the bench and knocked down his first 3, the U.S. team’s shooting gallery of stars had opened a 41-15 lead and made the p.a. announcer’s pregame comment that “anything is possible” seem prophetic.
He was talking about a possible upset. The only surprise in the first quarter was when the U.S. missed.
“We were looking forward to this game, playing against the U.S.,” Diogu said. “You know we wanted to use this to show the world what type of team we are. We just came out flat, turned the ball over too many times and they made us pay every time.”
The Americans seemed intent on breaking Nigeria’s spirit, and when that was accomplished with ease, they made a profound statement with their marksmanship.
Nigeria was the first to get the message.
“When they shoot like this, I don’t know if there is any team that can beat them,” Diogu said.
Anthony, who made five 3-pointers in the first half, put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter. With the U.S. bench standing in anticipation every time he touched the ball on the perimeter, Anthony made all five of his attempts, punctuating one that made it 97-54 by throwing back his head, laughing and shrugging his shoulders.
He was in a zone unlike any seen before.
“It’s a great accomplishment to get that record,” said Anthony, who broke Stephon Marbury’s scoring mark of 31 against Spain in 2004. “We did it in a very highly classy way. We went out there and we played basketball. We made shots. We make shots like that and play the way we played tonight, that record could have came on any team.”
Anthony wasn’t the lone sniper as the Americans made 29 of 46 3-pointers (63 percent), numbers that could stand for several more Olympiads.