The most impressive part about the United States’ 156-73 destruction of Nigeria in the preliminary round of the men’s basketball tournament at the 2012 London Olympics was Carmelo Anthony’s 37 points in 14 minutes.
Think about it. Melo made13 of 16 shots from the field and was 10-for-12 from behind the 3-pointer arc (a couple of feet shorter than the NBA line). He did all that in 14 minutes! That’s not even a complete half of basketball. Had Anthony played another 14 minutes he could have easily reached 60 points, which would have broken Oscar Schmidt’s single-game mark of 55 points.
Anthony set the U.S. Olympic mark for points in a game in less than three quarters, breaking Stephon Marbury’s old record of 31 points set in the 2004 Athens Olympics. The U.S. also set the Olympic record for points in a game and points in a half (78), as well as most 3-pointers (26), field goals (59) and best field-goal percentage (71).
“Well, obviously, we just shot better than any team in a game that I have ever coached,” said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Our guys just couldn’t miss tonight, and they shared the ball.”
The U.S. had a record-tying 41 assists, including 11 assists from Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers). Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) scored 21 points, Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), who played in the first half only, had 16, Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) had 15; Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) finished with 14; and Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets) had 13 points and was 3-for-3 from 3-point range.
“Well, the support system that we had, that I had with my teammates, you can’t explain that,” Anthony said. “The way that they tell me to shoot the ball, encouraging me to make shots, take shots, but then just to feel it every time, that touch, it’s kind of hard to explain it. If you’ve never done it, you really wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about just in terms of shooting the ball and shooting it well.”
The USA opened with a 13-0 run and had nearly set the record for team 3-pointers made in the first 10 minutes, shooting 11-of-14 from behind the arc in the first quarter – four of those came from Anthony, and three were by Durant. Nigeria tried to slow the pace with timeouts at 7:16 and 2:06, but its efforts were in vain as the first-quarter buzzer sounded on the USA’s highest scoring quarter of the tournament, 49-25.
“It’s funny to see, man, Durant said. “What Carmelo did was unbelievable. Hopefully we keep it up. We passed the ball well, our guys were knocking down our shots, our point guards made sure we got open shots and we were able to knock them down. So, it was a fun game.”
The previous U.S. Olympic high had been 133 points set by the 1996 squad against China, and the previous all-time Olympic high was 138 points, which was recorded by Brazil in a win over Egypt in 1988.
“It’ll go down in history,” said Andre Iguodala, whose 3-pointer with less than five minutes to play in the fourth quarter broke the scoring record. “It only matters if we achieve our goals. We’re trying to get better as a team going forward. That’s three games down and a few more to go. Our mission is to get the gold and we’re trying to peak at the right time.”
FIBA.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.