Team USA wins by 83 points? Yes, 83 points

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Team USA wins by 83 points? Yes, 83 points

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- Carmelo Anthony couldn't believe it. He threw back his head and shrugged his shoulders. The Olympics had never seen shooting like this, and may not ever again. Not on the basketball court, anyway. The U.S. men's team rewrote the record books Thursday in a 156-73 romp over Nigeria, a blowout that answered the Americans' detractors after two opening routs that provoked criticism of their slow starts and outside shooting. Knocking down shots from every corner of the arena, the U.S. made an incredible 30 of 37 attempts inside the arc (81 percent) and hit almost as many times behind it, more than doubling their previous high with 29 3-pointers. Anthony made 10 of his 12 3-pointers in his 37-point performance, accuracy that any Olympic archer would take. But what if the Americans keep it up at the London Games? "When they shoot like this, I don't know if there is any team that can beat them," Nigeria's Ike Diogu said. Spain and Russia would be much tougher tests for the U.S. than Nigeria was, but there is no defense for a team having the kind of night the Americans had. Not when they are already the most athletic team in the world, with perimeter shooting supposedly one of their few weaknesses. Well, scratch shooting from that list. The only risk for the Americans now, with five more games before they can win gold, may be that they used up too many makes Thursday night. "I hope we saved some for other games," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. Even the 1992 Dream Team never won this easily. The 83-point margin of victory was the largest in U.S. national team history, eclipsing the 79-point spread when Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Co. beat Cuba 136-57 in their first game. The Americans led by 26 in the first quarter, had an Olympic-record 78 points in the first half and Anthony broke the U.S. single-game Olympic scoring record in less than three quarters. "Our guys just couldn't miss," Krzyzewski said. Incredibly, they eclipsed the 100-point mark with 5 minutes still left in the third. "When we get hot, it's a big problem," Kobe Bryant said. "So you have all these guys on one team and then all get hot on the same night, it's tough." They broke the Olympic record for most points in a game with 4:37 still to play, and set U.S. records for 3-pointers (26), field goals (59) and field-goal percentage (71). When Andre Iguodala hit a 3-pointer with 4:37 left, the Americans had surpassed the previous Olympic record of 138 points set by Brazil against Egypt in 1988. When the record was announced to the mesmerized crowd, all the players seated on the U.S. bench got up and walked single file past Krzyzewski, slapping hands with him and his staff. Gentlemen, take a bow. "It was just one of them nights where as a unit we had it going," Anthony said. "It could have been anybody out on the court playing against us." The Americans seemed intent on breaking Nigeria's spirit, and when that was accomplished with ease, they made a profound statement with their marksmanship. Bryant scored 16 points -- 14 in the first quarter -- for the Americans, who scored 49 points in the first, left the floor leading 78-45 at half and then doubled their total in the second half. Russell Westbrook finished with 21 points, Kevin Love 15 and Kevin Durant 14 for the U.S., which will play Lithuania on Saturday. The Americans have won their first three games with ease, but now things are expected to get a lot tougher as they approach next week's medal round. Diogu scored 27 to lead Nigeria (1-2), which was as good as done after Durant hit a 3-pointer 11 seconds in, snapping an 0-for-14 slump by the U.S. in the first quarter in the tourney. Bryant was mostly a non-factor in wins over France and Tunisia, playing just 21 minutes and getting into early foul trouble. But from the outset against Nigeria, the two-time Olympian nicknamed the Black Mamba was as deadly as ever. He set the tone by scoring seven quick points as the U.S. (3-0) raced to a 13-0 lead, a haymaker that stunned the Nigerians. Durant buried three 3-pointers, Bryant and Anthony added two from long-range and when Love, the NBA's 3-point champion, came off the bench and knocked down his first three, the U.S. team's shooting gallery of stars had opened a 41-15 lead and made the announcer's pregame comment that "anything is possible" seem prophetic. He was talking about a possible upset. The only surprise in the first quarter was when the U.S. missed. "We were looking forward to this game, playing against the U.S.," Diogu said. "You know we wanted to use this to show the world what type of team we are. We just came out flat, turned the ball over too many times and they made us pay every time." After starting so sluggishly in blowout wins over France and Tunisia, the U.S. came flying out of the gates, led by Bryant. The Americans seemed intent on breaking Nigeria's spirit, and when that was accomplished with ease, they made a profound statement with their marksmanship. Anthony, who made five 3-pointers in the first half, put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter. With the U.S. bench standing in anticipation every time he touched the ball on the perimeter, Anthony made all five of his attempts, punctuating one that made it 97-54 by throwing back his head, laughing and shrugging his shoulders. He was in a zone unlike any seen before. "It's a great accomplishment to get that record," said Anthony, who broke Stephon Marbury's scoring mark of 31 against Spain in 2004. "We did it in a very highly classy way. We went out there and we played basketball. We made shots. We make shots like that and play the way we played tonight, that record could have came on any team." Anthony wasn't the lone sniper as the Americans made 29 of 46 3-pointers (63 percent), numbers that could stand for several more Olympiads. Although an Olympic rookie, Nigeria, with 10 players who played college ball in the U.S., also has its share of pro experience. Diogu, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., after his parents emigrated from Africa, has played for eight NBA teams and Al-Farouq, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, was traded last year by the Los Angeles Clippers to New Orleans in the deal for U.S. guard Chris Paul. But there isn't a team in the Olympics that can match the American's celebrated roster with a combined 43 All-Star appearances, seven NBA titles and four league MVPs. Krzyzewski gave his players the day off on Wednesday, a chance to relax and enjoy the games. Anthony and James Harden went to see boxing. Durant watched beach volleyball. They came back rested. And on target.

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Morning tip: Weaker the opponent, weaker Wizards' 1st half defense

Morning tip: Weaker the opponent, weaker Wizards' 1st half defense

The starts have to be better,  or 60-point first halves against the likes of the Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers will wear down the Wizards by the end of an 82-game season.

The Wizards (20-19) play the Portland Trail Blazers at Verizon Center where they've won 11 in a row.

They came back from a 13-point deficit to beat the Sixers on Saturday, a 12-win team that put up 56 points in the first 24 minutes.

"We had to play harder. We just let them run their offense the way they wanted to run it," Brooks said of the start. "We didn’t make them play with any duress, and we had to do that. We had to put pressure on the ball, we had to put pressure on all the screens, and we wanted to not only challenge shots but to challenge passes because that buys our backside defense time. I thought the guys did a good job.”

It's a troubling trend for the Wizards, who tend to get off on the wrong foot in first quarters against teams that shouldn't be so offensively potent. They allowed the Sixers to score 30 points, 36 to the injury-depleted Chicago Bulls, 32 to the Brooklyn Nets and 33 for the Miami Heat. 

Against the better teams, the Wizards have more of a tendency to hold them to less than 30. In two meetings, the Houston Rockets were limited to 23-point and 14-point first quarters and 23 and 24 for the San Antonio Spurs. 

The ability to play solid defense is there, but the effort isn't. 


[RELATED: By the numbers: Wizards' home streak reaches 11]

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Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McClouthan

Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McClouthan

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 16, 52 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL draft 101
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of thoughts to start out the week

1. I think that by the end of the week the Redskins will have two new coordinators. It looks like Matt Cavanaugh will be the offensive coordinator. Haven’t heard why Bill Callahan isn’t getting the nod; it’s possible that he likes what he’s doing now and he’s getting paid as well as many coordinators.

2.  For a quick game with the $100 in imaginary casino chips on the defensive coordinator candidates, I’ll make Greg Manusky the favorite at $40 with Mike Pettine right behind him at $35. I’ll put $10 of the rest on Gus Bradley—we’ve heard of an interview with the Chargers but not anything like a hiring—and $15 on the field. The situation is fluid but that's the way it looks right now. 

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

3. On November 21, after the results of Week 11, the Redskins were 2.5 games ahead of the Packers. They were also a half-game better than of the Falcons. Those two teams are now playing for the NFC title. It’s not how you start, or even how you do in the middle of the season. It’s how you finish.

4. I’m not much of a hockey guy but I think I’ve got to get down to the Verizon Center to see the Caps. They are blazing hot and you can tell it’s a great atmosphere at the VC.

5. I have a feeling that an announcement about a new stadium for the Redskins is going to happen sometime in the next few months. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe can’t run again; he is out of office about a year from today. He’s going to want a legacy item and a state of the art stadium in the commonwealth would fill the bill. The process of approval, financing, and construction will take up most or all of the 10 years that remains on the FedEx Field lease.

More Redskins: The Redskins week that was

6. Normally having a lot of cap space to work with is a good thing but it may not be for Scot McCloughan this year. If the Redskins trim some veterans from the payroll they could go into free agency with around $70 million to spend. McCloughan would prefer to build through the draft. But the current situation almost forces the Redskins to spend. McCloughan took some heat for going into the 2016 season with $15 million in cap space and some unfilled needs on the defensive line and at safety. If they have issues again in 2017 and there is, say, $30 million just sitting there the noise will get louder. And it won’t just be coming from fans and the media; plenty of it will come from the offices of Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.