What a rollercoaster!
Team USA held off a spirited Nigeria comeback to tip off their Olympic campaign with an 81-72 win in Saitama.
The win marked Team USA's 50th consecutive win at the Olympics as A'Ja Wilson led the charge with 19 points, while Brittney Griner added 13 and Diana Taurasi 10.
Ezinne Kalu led Nigeria with 16 points, while Victoria Macauley added 11. Promise Amukamare and Adora Elonue chipped in 10 points apiece.
Let's jump into the key takeaways at the buzzer:
1. A game of runs
Nigeria got off to a fast start taking an early 8-1 lead as they trapped USA and pressed full court from the jump, taking a 20-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Team USA found their rhythm on offence in the second quarter, behind Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi, reeling off a 23-0 run siezing control of the contest and take a 44-37 lead into half-time.
They extended their lead to 70-50 heading into the fourth, before Nigeria mounted a comeback in the final frame, going on a 12-0 run led by Ezinne Kalu, to get to within eight points with 3:19 remaining. That's as close as they got as Sylvia Fowles scored out of a timeout and Chelsea Gray buried a pair of mid-range jumpers to seal the win.
After losing by 31 points in their pre-Olympic exhibition against Team USA, Nigeria showed plenty of fight tonight, with their high-energy defence rattling the USA for stretches.
2. Sue Bird's got dimes
The five-time Olympian fell just two assists shy of the all-time Olympic assist record (Teresa Edwards, 15 in 1996), notching 13 dimes in Team USA's win.
With her 11th of the night, she reached 100 Olympic assists and is now Top five in single-game assists.
With her 11th vs Nigeria, @S10Bird reached 100 assists for her Olympic career 🙌🐐#USABWNT x #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/ZkSJcJMY55- USA Basketball (@usabasketball) July 27, 2021
3. Aija Wilson shines in debut
In her first Olympic appearance, three-time WNBA All-Star and former MVP A'ja Wilson stole the show with a game-high 19 points and 13 rebounds, helping the USA dominate in the paint.
She crashed the glass all night, picking up six offensive rebounds as Team USA outscored Nigeria 19-8 in second-chance points.
They outrebounded Nigeria 61-41 on the night, thanks to the prsence of Wilson and Brittney Griner, who enforced their will in the paint.
4. Turnovers nearly unravel USA
Nigeria stayed in the contest thanks to their physical defence as they pressured USA's ball handlers on the perimeter, jumping the passing lanes and crowding the paint.
They forced 25 turnovers and as a result attempted 18 more field goal attempts on the night, however Nigeria failed to make Team USA pay with their shooting woes letting them off the hook.
5. Where the game was decided
Some key stats...
- USA shot 24-of-46 (52.2 percent) from 2-point range, 5-of-20 (25 percent) from the 3-point line and 18-of-24 (75 percent) at the free throw line.
- Nigeria shot 17-of-56 (30.4 percent) from the feld, 6-of-28 (21.4 percent) from the 3-point line and 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) at the free throw line.
- Team USA outscored Nigeria in fast-break points 28-13
- Team USA outrebounded Nigeria (61-41) and had the edge in bench points (30-23)
- Team USA led for 29:17 while Nigeria lead for just 7:46
- Nigeria forced 25 turnovers to USA's 11
6. What's next?
The teams in Group B are back in action on Friday when the USA takes on Japan and France takes on Nigeria.
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