Nigerian hoops fans got the result they wanted despite watching an almost one-sided game that went the way we expected: Yes, D’Tigers lost by 44 points, but except for a few partially disgruntled fans, a lot of Nigerians will be happy with the outcome. This was a team that lost by 83 points the last time out – that’s a 39 point improvement. However, D’Tigers could have kept the game closer…
If only D’Tigers had defended better. We talked about Tigers playing top notch defence all night, but they succeeded in keeping the Americans at bay for only a quarter, after that it became a ‘bloodbath’. The American had free passes through D’Tigers lane all night long. The Nigerian team couldn’t keep up with the speed of ball movement and were caught out of position when the ball switched from wing to wing.
The absence of Al Farouq and Festus Ezeli meant D’Tigers were short handed. Paul George and Kyrie Irving sat out the game, but D’Tigers also missed Ezeli and Al Farouq. It took a while for Ike Diogu to assert himself in the paint as DeMarcus Cousins, De Andre Jordan and the much bigger Americans bullied the Nigerians all night. D’Tigers missed the perimeter defence and paint prowess of Air Nigeria. And Ezeli’s bulk would have, perhaps, reduced the bullying.
For D’Tigers to achieve any form of success, they will need to shoot better. While it is agreed that the USA have the best basketball team(s) in the world, it could be argued that D’Tigers beat themselves. The Americans recovered from a shooting slump (13/33 treys), while Nigeria made just four 3’s all night and three of those came late in the fourth quarter. D’Tigers also shot less than 40% all night (4/29 treys). Poor shot selection, slow ball movement that led to traps by the opponent, and poor defence did D’Tigers in far more than Team USA efficiency.
Ah, Ben Uzoh! When he’s in the groove, there are arguably few Point Guards that can stay with Uzoh, but the former New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors man can be infuriating. He slashed to the rim and posterized DeAndre Jordan one minute, sprinkles Turn Overs like confetti the next five minutes, and then he throws poor shot selections into the mix. His mistakes ripped the team, leading to points galore for Team USA. If Uzoh will start at PG, Will Voight has to put him on a special diet of “Sensible basketball”.
What if Champ Oguchi’s ‘trey-falls’ had started earlier? Then maybe the game would have ended differently. Momentum is always key in basketball. Oguchi’s shots started falling after the game had been lost.
Despite the 110-66 loss, D’Tigers should hold their heads up. Argentina, rated 4th in the world lost 111-74 to the same team, and if not for errant shooting, D’Tigers would have scored more than 66pts. In all, it was a good lesson learnt, hopefully D’Tigers will profit by it.