LONDON (AFP) – United States NBA stars shattered the Olympic single-game scoring record on Thursday, producing one of the greatest shooting performances in basketball history in a 156-73 rout of Nigeria.
On a day when Spain and Russia clinched berths in the medal playoffs with thrilling victories and France and Argentina took big steps toward reaching the quarter-finals with triumphs, the American multi-millionaires stole the show.
Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points, the most by any American player in Olympic history in a game, and the New York Knicks’ playmaker’s 10-of-12 3-point shooting was also a US Olympic mark.
“When they shoot like this, I don’t know if there is any team that can beat them,” Nigeria’s Ike Diogu said.
The old Olympic record for points by a team in one game was set by Brazil in 1988 at Seoul in a 138-85 preliminary round triumph over Egypt.
“It’s a great achievement to get that record,” Anthony said. “Any time you have a chance to reach a milestone, you have to take advantage of it.”
The Americans also eclipsed their own Olympic team record for points in a game, set in a 133-70 victory over China in 1996 at Atlanta.
Russell Westbrook added 21 points and Kobe Bryant had 16 on a night when every US player scored and the team hit 59-of-83 from the field, a team Olympic record 71 percent of its shots, including 29-of-46 from 3-point range.
“Just an incredible shooting performance,” US coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We just shot better in a game than any team I have ever coached.”
Despite a 3-0 start, the US men have not clinched a medal playoff spot, although that is expected to come Saturday when they face Lithuania.
Vitaliy Fridzon sank a 3-pointer from the left corner with four seconds remaining to give Russia a dramatic 75-74 victory over Brazil in a battle of unbeatens while reigning European champion Spain edged winless Britain 79-78.
Jose Calderon led Spain with 19 points and sank crucial free throws in the final seconds to hold off a late charge by minnows Britain, led by 25 points from Joel Freeland and 23 from NBA Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng.
“When you lose your focus and concentration, you really get in trouble,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.
The win ensured Russia and Spain will advance from Group B. Brazil will join them with one more win. Australia would advance by beating Britain on Saturday.
Alexey Shved hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to pull Russia even at 72-72 with 26 seconds remaining. Marcelinho Huertas put Brazil ahead with a layup with 6.1 seconds to play before Fridzon hit the game winner.
“Wins like this give the team a lot of confidence,” Fridzon said. “We showed that we will never give up.”
Andrei Kirilenko scored 19 points to lead Russia while Timofey Mozgov added 18 points and Shved finished with 17. Brazil was led by 16 points from Leandrinho Barbosa.
“We should learn from this,” Huertas said. “They hit a very tough shot. Maybe he shoots this shot 10 times and he would never hit it again.”
NBA star guard Tony Parker scored 27 points to lead France over Lithuania 82-74 while Manu Ginobili, Parker’s teammate on the NBA San Antonio Spurs, netted 24 points as Argentina ripped winless Tunisia 92-69.
Both France and Argentina moved to 2-1 in Group A and each can secure playoff spots with a split of their last two games.
“It was really important to win,” French NBA standout Boris Diaw said. “We are chasing a quarter-final place and we want to be as high up the table as possible.”
Lithuania sunk to 1-2 and must face the Americans next.
“We’ve got to prepare for that game like we do for every game,” Lithuania’s Martynas Pocius said. “It’s going to be a very tough game. We’ve got to try.”
Even if they advance, the Lithuanians are looking at facing Spain or Russia in the quarter-finals.
“We’re not quitting,” Lithuanian coach Kestutis Kemzura said. “We want to use even the smallest chance.”
Argentine NBA sharpshooter Carlos Delfino scored 21 points and NBA big man Luis Scola added 18 for Argentina, which won Olympic gold in 2004 at Athens and took a bronze medal four years ago in Beijing. Next for Argentina is Nigeria.
“The next game is very important to us. It’s a game that’s going to clinch us a quarter-final,” Scola said.
Tunisia led 28-14 after the first quarter, but Ginobili sparked Argentina to the first 15 points of the second quarter and after a 40-40 half-time deadlock the South Americans opened the third with a 23-6 run over six minutes to romp.
Australia delivered a double blow to winless China’s playoff hopes with an 81-61 triumph in which Chinese NBA star Yi Jianlian suffered a right knee injury. Yi’s status was uncertain for the remainder of the Olympics.