Nigeria’s men’s basketball national team, D’Tigers looked tired and clueless in an error-strewn performance that saw them lose 84-65 to Australia on Sunday, in their opening game of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, megasportsarena.com reports.
All pre-Games heroics by Mike Brown’s squad failed to manifest on the day it mattered most, as team captain, Gabe Vincent failed to sink free throws, many of his colleagues gave the ball away too easily and The Aussies had a field day.
Led by the antics and skills of Patty Mills, the men from Down Under took charge of the game from the first blast of the umpire’s whistle and they never took their feet off the throttle except when it came to soaking off the clock late in the fourth quarter.
Mills was the star of the game, even as the Nigerians put up strong resistance in the first quarter that ended 23-23, but Australia were ahead by 43-40 at the end of the second quarter and took the third 58-52 points heading into the fourth and final quarter.
The San Antonio Spurs of America guard, who was Australia’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony, netted 25 points and helped his team show that they are capable of doing better than their best fourth placed finish achieved at Rio 2016.
The Aussies indeed look capable of going further this time with a roster of seven players from USA’s National Basketball Association (NBA), as the team ranked third in the world pulled away in the fourth quarter of a game that initially appeared evenly matched between both sides.
Nigeria, who also featured eight current NBA players, could not stop the Australians from opening an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter after D’Tigers went without hitting a basket for more than five minutes to open the second half.
A moment of respite came for D’Tigers when the Australians lost momentum when the game was delayed by a malfunctioning horn and, although the Nigerians cut the deficit to five early in the fourth quarter, Brown’s wards soon crumbled in fatigue and fitness issues.
Matisse Thybulle of Philadelphia 76ers made a 3-pointer and then Mills helped break it open, while Obi Emegano scored 12 points for Nigeria, who are being handled at this competition by an NBA veteran and current assistant coach of Golden State Warriors.
After tumbling to a 19-point deficit against the world number three Australians, D’Tigers will now have to dig really deep in order to put their medal-winning ambitions back on track in their next game versus Germany on Wednesday.
D’Tigers will hope to bounce back against the German side that lost 92-82 to Italy, who Australia will play on Tuesday in match-up of both teams that won on the opening day of Group B action, while Nigeria and Germany lost.