Team USA wins by 83 points? Yes, 83 points

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Team USA wins by 83 points? Yes, 83 points

From Comcast SportsNet
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 marksmanship. Anthony, who made five 3-pointers in the first half, put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter. With the U.S. bench standing in anticipation every time he touched the ball on the perimeter, Anthony made all five of his attempts, punctuating one that made it 97-54 by throwing back his head, laughing and shrugging his shoulders. He was in a zone unlike any seen before. "It's a great accomplishment to get that record," said Anthony, who broke Stephon Marbury's scoring mark of 31 against Spain in 2004. "We did it in a very highly classy way. We went out there and we played basketball. We made shots. We make shots like that and play the way we played tonight, that record could have came on any team." Anthony wasn't the lone sniper as the Americans made 29 of 46 3-pointers (63 percent), numbers that could stand for several more Olympiads. Although an Olympic rookie, Nigeria, with 10 players who played college ball in the U.S., also has its share of pro experience. Diogu, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., after his parents emigrated from Africa, has played for eight NBA teams and Al-Farouq, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, was traded last year by the Los Angeles Clippers to New Orleans in the deal for U.S. guard Chris Paul. But there isn't a team in the Olympics that can match the American's celebrated roster with a combined 43 All-Star appearances, seven NBA titles and four league MVPs. Krzyzewski gave his players the day off on Wednesday, a chance to relax and enjoy the games. Anthony and James Harden went to see boxing. Durant watched beach volleyball. They came back rested. And on target.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.