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Should Team USA have eased up on Nigeria? Coach K says they did.

Aug 3, 2012, 1:42 AM EDT

Olympics Day 6 - Basketball Getty Images

Already up 57 points entering the fourth quarter Thursday, Team USA beat Nigeria 37-11 in the final frame. They were knocking down threes, creating turnovers and continuing to put up points.

When the historic beatdown had finished and the USA won by 83, some were calling it poor sportsmanship — they say the USA tried to humiliate Nigeria, that the USA kept pouring it on when they should have eased up.

I don’t buy it. This isn’t U8 soccer, mom isn’t passing out orange slices after the game and everybody doesn’t get a medal. This is where the big boys play.

USA coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t having any of it either, saying they tried to ease up. Here are his comments, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

“We didn’t play LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] in the second half, and with Carmelo shooting like that, we benched him,” Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t take any fast breaks in the fourth quarter, and we played all zone. You have to take a shot every 24 seconds, and the shots we took happened to be hit.

“I take offense to this question because there’s no way in the world that our program in the United States sets out to humiliate anyone.”

If this had been a Duke game, Krzyzewski would have sent in those guys at the end of the bench who are actually there for a Duke education. The drop off in talent from the starters to the end of the bench is pretty steep, as it is on pretty much every other team on the planet.

When Krzyzewski empties the Team USA bench it is Russell Westbrook and James Harden and Anthony Davis. The drop off is to All-Stars and the NCAA Player of the Year, all better than anyone on the Nigerian team. And this just happened to be one of those nights where all the USA players seemed hot — they shot 71 percent as a team.

No matter what Krzyzewski does, he can’t slow the engine down too much. Meanwhile Nigeria is turning the ball over and jacking up bad shots early in the clock, giving the USA easy chances.

This is the big time. There are no mercy rules because the Olympics are supposed to be the world’s best competing against each other. The fact that the USA’s best was that much better than Nigeria’s best on this day was unfortunate.

But humiliation? Poor sportsmanship? That’s not what the USA tried to do. They were just that good.

  1. davidtmp - Aug 3, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    HOLD UP!!! You can’t have it both ways. With all the talk about people throwing games to get a better seed, what really is the difference if the US team just puts it on cruise control to keep from running up the score? You play the game, if one team just happens to be hitting, and the other isn’t, oh well. Man up.

  2. dbestpro - Aug 3, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    There is just a pure lack of class, humility and understanding of how you should play a game by most of America these days. It is understandable to be a bad loser and not like to lose, but to be a bad winner and try to justify it is the acts of pompous rich jerks at their best. If it were a movie and the USA team was listed as the red team they would be hated by everyone who watched the movie. It is not how we should treat people child or adult.

  3. donrwells3 - Aug 3, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    We all knew this kind of game was possible from these guys… They are the very best. (imo)

    I don’t think it is fair to even question sportsmanship when all you did was play the game. The Olympics are supposed to be the best the world has to offer. Nigeria played very poorly against the best in the world. This was the result!

  4. creek0512 - Aug 3, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    I don’t think anyone who actually watched the second half and knows anything about basketball can claim that they were running up the score. The claims that they all the 3 pointers prove they were intentionally trying to humiliate the Nigerians only shows that that person knows very little about basketball. If you actually do want to run up the score then you fast break and get quick high percentage dunks and layups. However the USA was running 20 seconds off the shot clock every possession and then shooting a three, a low percentage shot. The Nigerians certainly didn’t help themselves by playing zero perimeter defense which resulted in most of those 3 pointers being wide open.

  5. jimeejohnson - Aug 3, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    “Some were calling it poor sportsmanship…” The “some” happened to be Nigerian. Coincidence?

  6. livingsacrifice86 - Aug 3, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    So if they win by less than 20 they are in trouble and have a bunch of flaws. If they win by 83 they’re unsportsmanlike and running up the score. I think all these “experts” and former players should just shut up and enjoy the USA winning the gold medal. Its probably a really cool accomplishment to some one the young players on that team and even the guys that have been there before. I dont think they care if they win by 1 or 100. Its basketball on the world stage

    • itsonlyaspeedbump - Aug 3, 2012 at 9:47 PM

      Your asking for perspective, rationality, and good sense from the people who try to have it both ways. I know it sounds easy for you and I, but for these people its impossible.

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