After losing only two exhibition games in nearly three decades, Team USA suffered their second straight exhibition loss Monday, falling to Australia, 91-83. Despite another exhibition loss ahead of the Tokyo Games, it was a step in the right direction and another rung up the ladder, at least in the head coach’s eyes.
“I was pleased. I thought we got better tonight. After a short time together, there’s a lot of things that have to be covered, but the first half and the second half were two different beasts. In the first half, we defended the way we wanted to defend. The way we did not defend against Nigeria. We were more physical. We sustained the defense longer. We rebounded better. We moved the ball better on the offensive end and had more pace,” said Gregg Popovich post-game.
Kevin Durant had another productive outing. The three-time Olympian finished with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-9 from three to go with four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 28 minutes of play, same as he did vs. Nigeria.
It was a tight game heading into the halfway mark of the fourth before things went cold for Team USA. Durant drilled a left-wing three to cut the deficit to 80-79 with 5:23 remaining, but the collective offense didn’t follow, tallying only four points before the final buzzer sounded. Meanwhile, Australia — led by NBA free agent Patty Mills with 22 points in 30 minutes of play — secured the exhibition victory.
“In the second half, we tired out and when that happens, you get hit mentally a little bit too. We didn’t sustain the board the same way. The defense wasn’t the same. Our pace wasn’t the same, so we got some guys that have to get their legs and rhythm back but in general, we need more conditioning which is totally understandable. We’re just sticking with the process of trying to get better with every game and we did that tonight,” Popovich added.
Indeed, some of the players are getting accustomed to playing basketball again after post-season layoffs. USA basketball has only had four practices to go with the two exhibitions. The team is also missing three players, Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, all of whom are playing in the NBA Finals.
Damian Lillard led Team USA with 22 points, four rebounds and an assist in 30 minutes of play followed by Bradley Beal with 12 points in a team-high 32 minutes of play. Team USA shot 46.2 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from deep in the loss.
Team USA will be back in action Tuesday against Argentina at 6:00 PM ET. The exhibition is the second leg of a back-to-back and it is likely player(s) will be resting with the Games beginning July 23 and the first game vs. France two days later.
“These teams are experienced and spent a lot of time together and we are still working at becoming a team, still getting our legs under us, getting in shape and we aren’t just going to come out here and roll the ball out and beat these teams,” said Lillard after the loss. “We got to play the right way, compete and come out here to win and do everything to give ourselves a chance. If we don’t, we can be beat. That’s the number one thing that stood out to me after these first two.”
Adam Caporn, the Long Island Nets new head coach, is an assistant coach for Australia.
- Box Score: Australia 91, USA 83 - USA Basketball
- Team USA falls to Australia for second straight pre-Olympic basketball exhibition loss - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Team USA falls to 0-2 in Olympic exhibitions after loss to Australia - Brian Windhorst - ESPN
- USA Basketball falls again, this time 91-83 to Australia - Tim Reynolds - AP