On Tuesday, Team USA’s starters got into trouble early against Tunisia. It was as if they took one glance at the Tunisian roster, didn’t recognize any NBA caliber players and then decided that they would be able to cruise to victory. It was a grave mistake. In the end, the second unit was able to right the ship and lead the team to a blow out victory, which leads us to tonight’s game against Nigeria, a team who has only one NBA player of note (Al-Farouq Aminu). Nigeria defeated Tunisia by four and are currently 1-1 in the group. Will Team USA repeat their mistake and fall behind early against Nigeria? Let’s take a look at some of the factors surrounding today’s game.
Frontcourt: Some of you may remember Ike Diogu, who was drafted ninth overall in the 2005 draft by the Warriors. During his tenure in the NBA, he bounced around eight different teams and eventually left the league in 2012 after the Spurs waived him. That being said, he is probably the strongest player on the Nigerian roster and has averaged a double-double during the Olympics. Kevin Love should match-up well against Diogu and should be able to out-rebound him. Rounding out the front court, Nigeria has Olumide Oyedji and Alade Aminu who shouldn’t pose much of a threat to Tyson Chandler. Alade played college ball at Georgia Tech and also did a short stint in the NBA D-League so he is no stranger to the competitiveness of NBA basketball.
Backcourt: Anthony Davis’ new teammate, Al-Farouq Aminu, happens to be the only NBA player on the Nigerian roster. Al-Farouq was a promising young prospect who was traded away from the Clippers as part of the package deal for Chris Paul. Standing at 6’9’’, Al-Farouq has great size for the small forward position; however, he is clearly out-classed by the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.
Keys to Victory:
Defensive Pressure – Nigeria isn’t a high shooting percentage team. Over the past two games they have shot 28 percentage collectively. Team USA’s first unit surely received a verbal lashing from Coach K about their lack of intensity in the first 10 minutes versus Tunisia. Hopefully they will come out pumped up and ready to play hard despite Nigeria’s below average skill. It’s never a good habit to play down to the opponent’s level. Team USA has every possible tool in the shed: Paul and Iguodala are great on-ball defenders, Davis and Chandler have a penchant for deflecting shots and LeBron is an all-around beast who can defend every position. Team USA should utilize these tools and look to lock down the Nigerian squad early.
Don’t Fall in Love with the Three – During the first quarter of the Tunisia game, Team USA settled for too many outside shots. The offense would be better if they kept the ball on the ground and drove into the lane. Few players can match up with the strength, size and speed of Team USA. Who would willingly step in front of the freight train that is LeBron James? Who can keep up with the speedy and crafty Chris Paul? Who can defend against Kobe’s footwork and sweet mid-range fade? The resounding answer to all of these questions is no one on the Nigerian squad. Rather than settle for low percentage shots from beyond the arc, Team USA’s shots should come from within 15 feet of the hoop.
USA vs Nigeria
2:15 PM PST, August 2, 2012
Basketball Arena, London, England
TV: NBC Sports
Nigeria Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Anthony Skinn
SG: Derrick Obasohan
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu
PF: Ike Diogu
C: Olumide Oyedeji
Key Reserves: C Alade Aminu