LONDON – A record-shattering scoring binge for the US NBA Olympic Dream Team is bad enough, but what is even worse for the Americans’ rivals is the idea that the multi-millionaire superstars have not yet peaked.
The unbeaten US squad will face Lithuania on Saturday seeking to clinch a spot in the medal playoffs and coming off the greatest offensive performance in Olympic history, a jaw-dropping 156-73 rout of Nigeria.
“It will go down in history,” US reserve Andre Iguodala said. “It only matters if we achieve our goals. We’re trying to get better as a team going forward. Our mission is get the gold. We’re trying to peak at the right time.”
The NBA lineup connected on 59-of-83 shots, a staggering 71 percent accuracy rate, with a US Olympic record 29 3-pointers on 46 attempts.
Carmelo Anthony scored a US Olympic record 37 points, aided by 10-of-12 shooting from 3-point range, sinking his final five 3-point tries in a row in 2:05 before being benched midway into the third quarter, the US ahead 100-54.
“It was just incredible,” Anthony said. “Everybody played off each other, took the shots that were open and they went in.”
Every US player scored, each half producing 78 points, a new record score for any half in the Olympics.
“Amazing experience just to be a part of that game,” said US reserve James Harden. “We beat a team by 83 points and that’s unheard of. It was an honour to be a part of that.”
US big man Tyson Chandler, who managed a measely two points, marveled at the outside shooting display.
“That was unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve never seen four quarters put together like that in a basketball game.”
Mark Adams, the International Olympic Committee communicatons chief, pondered the idea of whether or not the blowout was good for Olympic basketball given the concern of competitiveness.
“I think everyone wants to see good competition,” he said. “In some senses I think it is damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
“People want to see as many teams, as many countries, represented as possible. Obviously there has to be a good level of competition. So no, I don’t think it is damaging.
“There may be some games where some teams do miles better than others, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a good decent level of competition and representation, and our job at the IOC is to try to balance those two things.”
US coach Mike Krzyzewski defended complaints the US stars tried to humiliate the Nigerians, noting he benched Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Anthony and tried to slow the game down.
“The first thing we did was not play LeBron and Kobe in the second half,” he said.
“The second thing was, even with Carmelo shooting like that, we benched him. We didn’t play Durant. We didn’t take any fast breaks in the fourth quarter and we played all zone (defence).
“You have to take a shot every 24 seconds and the shots we took happened to be hit.”
“There is no way in the world that our program in the United States is ever out to humiliate anyone. A coach would be humiliated if we didn’t play hard. But the score is irrelevant to us. We just want to play well and win.”
Spain and Russia have already booked their berths in the medal playoffs and others in addition to the US Dream Team will try and join them on Saturday.
Argentina can clinch in Group A with a victory over Nigeria and a French win over Tunisia should be enough as well. In Group B, Brazil can advance by beating China and Australia can reach the last eight by beating Britain.
In addition, unbeaten Group B leaders Russia and Spain meet in a game likely to decide which is a top seed and probably in the opposite bracket from the Americans.