Credit: AP-Scanpix
Credit AP-Scanpix

Team USA began their preparation for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, not the way they wanted but the head coach of the team, Gregg Popovich, remained positive after the loss to Nigeria.

Popovich congratulated Nigeria with a fantastic win in Las Vegas and told the reporters that the African team, coached by Mike Brown, deserves the credit.

“I thought that Nigeria played very physically,” coach Popovich said. “They did a great job in that regard and knocked a lot of threes. Give them credit.”

“Goes to show that we have to play better on any given night,” Tatum added. “They’re a team that plays hard, physically, and anybody can win. It’s something we can learn from.”

After giving a very short opening statement, Popovich made a much more comprehensive comment after hearing the first question from the media. Popovich, one more time, addressed that Nigeria deserves the credit.

“I think you’re taking some points and making them more important than they are at this particular time,” said Popovich. “For instance, you don’t give any credit for the Nigeria team. That’s a talented group of players. That’s not a bunch of people out of the street playing basketball.”

“You need to understand that every year teams are better and better. Every year there are 1 or 2 more players around those teams. So, they’re quality team, Mike (Brown) has done a great job with them, and they are athletic as anybody. Very physical, and they’ve been practicing for 3 weeks.

There were a lot of things I liked about the game. We turned it over half as much as they did; we shot about three times more free throws. I thought we got outrebounded by 20, but it was 6 or 7. Assists were even, basically, 21 and 19. The 3-point game was a difference tonight,” added the head coach.

Popovich also admitted that this loss could have its positives

“With four days of practice, there was a lot of things I liked out there,” told Popovich. “In a way, I’m kinda glad it happened. That loss means nothing if we don’t learn from it, but it can be the most important thing in this tournament for us to learn lessons from this and see what we did.”

“It’s a great group of guys, and we’ll figure it out. I don’t think anyone should act like it’s the end of the world. It’s about everybody else deserves a lot of credit, and we have to play our ass off (to win)”, said Popovich.

Tatum, who scored 15 points, shared very familiar thoughts.

“I think this is good for us. We are going to learn a lot from the film, regroup and stay positive,” said the Boston Celtics forward. “I wouldn’t say it was awkward; we all know how to play basketball. I guess, in the first half, we threw out some plays instead of moving (the ball). We’ll have to play together.”

There were some sarcastic answers from Popovich as well. Asked, if he was disappointed with the defense, the head coach of Team USA kept it simple.

“We just lost a game, and they scored 20 threes. The answer is probably yes,” said Popovich.

“I think that more than anything, we took care of the ball pretty good,” continued Popovich. “I think we had 7 turnovers. I’m actually surprised by that because their pressure was great all night long, for the whole 40 minutes. I thought that was good.”

“We kept supporting each other even if the things weren’t going well. Everybody expects us to win every game, and that puts some pressure on you. For a new group in a tough circumstance, I thought they done a great job,” finished Popovich.

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