In a pre-Olympic meeting with Nigeria this weekend, the United States squad saw one of their stars in the backcourt get injured as the first to do so. Chicago Bulls star shooting guard Zach LaVine made headlines for the wrong reasons in the international friendly meeting between Team USA and Nigeria on July 10.
But the good news for LaVine after this reported and apparent ankle injury he suffered against Nigeria is that he was able to return by the end of the game. The source of the injury was LaVine contesting a three-pointer from the Nigerian squad before he “came up hobbling” near head coach Mike Brown.
LaVine would go down the tunnel in this game, but he returned to the United States’ bench before it all concluded. Ironically enough, LaVine played a key role in how this game ended in what should’ve been an easy victory for the United States.
Chicago Bulls SG Zach LaVine injures his ankle in pre-Olympic friendly with Nigeria
It was LaVine that took the game-deciding free throws at the end of the outing for the United States. But that was largely an improbable task for LaVine to make the first of two free throws, then get the offensive rebound, and sink a three-pointer to try and at least push this game further.
A late rally from the United States fell short in the end, losing to Nigeria by the final score of 90-87. This was a stunning loss for Team USA to Nigeria. Although it doesn’t necessarily impact the Olympic tables, it does present concerns for the United States heading into the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, later this month.
LaVine himself didn’t play all that bad, especially considering he injured his ankle. In around 21.5 minutes played in this game, LaVine registered 10 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, and no turnovers. And he shot 4-of-8 from the field, 2-of-6 from beyond the arc, and 0-of-2 from the free-throw line.
Team USA as a whole needs some of their top stars to just put in a bigger effort moving forward. Superstar forward Kevin Durant shot just 4-of-13 from the field, and shooting guard Bradley Beal shot just 1-of-7 from the field.
This team also has to defend better. Nigeria shot an impressive 20-of-42 from beyond the arc. Gabe Vincent spearheaded this impressive effort from Nigeria shooting from downtown, as he hit his looks at a clip of 6-of-8 from three-point range.
Bulls star LaVine and the United States will need to respond in a strong way in the next exhibition, which comes on July 12 at 3 p.m. CT against Australia. LaVine should be ready to go for that friendly ahead of the start of the Summer Olympics since he returned later in the game against Nigeria.