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USA basketball defeats Nigeria in final tune-up before Rio Olympics

Carmelo Anthony of the United States takes a

Carmelo Anthony of the United States takes a shot against Michel Umeh of Nigeria in a pre-Olympic exhibition game during USA Basketball Showcase at Toyota Center on August 1, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Credit: Getty Images / Ronald Martinez

HOUSTON — There were no bumps on this road to Rio.

Next up for the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team is the trip to Brazil, where the Americans think they can play even better now that they’re done having to go place to place.

“As a team, I think you’re going to see a much different team over there,” Carmelo Anthony said.

Anthony scored 19 points and the U.S. wrapped up its unbeaten exhibition tour with a 110-66 victory over Nigeria on Monday night.

The Americans weren’t quite as potent this time but were dominant defensively after pouring on the points in a record-setting romp over the Nigerians four years ago. They forced the African champions to miss their first 22 3-point shots and held them to 4 for 29 behind the arc.

Klay Thompson had 17 points and Kevin Durant added 14 for the U.S., which went 5-0 and wasn’t tested during its easy five-city, pre-Olympic schedule. The U.S. men and women — who arrived in Houston earlier Monday and attended the game — are scheduled to fly Tuesday night to Rio de Janeiro, where both will be favored to repeat as Olympic basketball champions.

“We leave tomorrow night and then it’s off, hopefully, to a gold medal,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

The men’s team will have to wait until it gets there for a close game — if one comes at all. The Americans previously defeated Argentina, China twice and Venezuela by an average of 42.8 points, scoring 101 per game. They play the Chinese again to open Olympic play on Aug. 6 and also meet Venezuela again.

This one was only close for a few minutes, perhaps a little longer than the Americans’ 156-73 victory in the 2012 Olympics, when Anthony set U.S. records by scoring 37 points and going 10 for 12 from 3-point range in just 14 minutes. He was 0 for 6 beyond the arc this time but scored nine points in the third quarter, when the lead ballooned to 43 points.

The Americans rang up the most points ever scored in an Olympic game in the London contest, but Nigeria started better this time. Ben Uzoh brought the players on the Nigerian bench to their feet with a dunk over DeAndre Jordan in the first quarter, but the Americans gradually pulled away late in the period and kept increasing the lead from there.

DeMar DeRozan had a few powerful dunks and Kyle Lowry and Jordan hooked up on a spectacular one, as Lowry threw an alley-oop pass from beyond halfcourt that Jordan slammed down.

“We’re a talented team, it’s about just finding a rhythm,” DeRozan said. “We find rhythms later in the first quarter, in the second quarter. Now it’s about just starting from the gate.”

Chamberlain Oguchi finally got Nigeria’s first 3-pointer with a little under 4 minutes remaining. He added three more from there and finished with 21 points.

“It’s hard because they’re so good in transition. It seemed like all of those 3-point misses kind of led to their leak outs and as we know when they can get into an open court they kind of feed off of that,” Nigeria coach Will Voigt said.

The U.S. played without starting point guard Kyrie Irving, who rested a bruised left thigh he sustained when he was bumped on a pick in the Americans’ victory over Venezuela on Friday in Chicago. Also, Indiana’s Paul George missed a second game with a left calf injury.

Krzyzewski said both were expected to be fine for the Olympic opener.

Lowry started for Irving and finished with eight points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. DeRozan, his Toronto teammate, scored 13 points.

New York Sports