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