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Team USA dropped its second successive game ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, losing 91-83 to Australia in an exhibition Monday.
Many were left stunned when Nigeria took down the U.S. 90-87 on Saturday. It was a potentially foreboding sign in the short and long term while at the same time easy to dismiss as a one-off occurrence.
Now, the alarm bells might begin ringing inside USA Basketball.
The United States owned a nine-point lead at halftime, but Chris Goulding hit a buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter and give Australia a 69-64 lead.
Jayson Tatum put Team USA back ahead 82-80 at the 4:35 mark of the fourth quarter, only for Patty Mills to tie things up again with a pair of free throws. That was emblematic of how the U.S. simply couldn’t put Australia away.
Down five points, the United States turned the ball over after a sequence of multiple passes that effectively sealed the result.
The Boomers shot 52.9 percent from the floor and went 10-of-24 from beyond the arc.
Damian Lillard, United States: 22 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block
Bradley Beal, United States: 17 points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocks
Joe Ingles, Australia: 17 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal
Patty Mills, Australia: 22 points, two rebounds, four assists, one steal
Australia Demonstrates Medal Credentials
Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons withdrew from Olympic consideration in June to focus on his individual game this summer. Based on Monday, Australia remains well poised to win its first medal in the Summer Games.
Mills is a free agent this offseason, and the longtime San Antonio Spurs guard might want to wait until after the Olympics to put pen to paper on a new deal:
Australia was a nuisance on defense all game, and a lot of that started with 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle. During a sequence in the fourth quarter, Durant attempted a mid-range jumper, only to have the All-Defensive star leap up for the denial.
The 24-year-old also looks like he’ll thrive with a larger role than he’s accustomed to having in Philly:
In general, continuity in the international game can go a long way, and that’s something opposing countries can use to their advantage over Team USA. Many of Australia’s key players aren’t strangers to one another:
Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie
Chris Goulding, Joe Ingles, and Patty Mills have played together forever.
And John isn’t exaggerating about the “teen years” thing. Mills and Goulding were legit together on the 2007 U19 World Cup roster for Australia. That’s almost 15 years lol. https://t.co/HPlyPY1Udf
The postgame discourse will focus largely on the United States, but it shouldn’t obscure how good the Boomers are.
Team USA Facing Tough Challenge in Tokyo
This was another reality check for the United States, perhaps even more so than the result against Nigeria. The U.S. should still be considered the gold medal favorite, but the road to a fourth straight title won’t be easy because top contenders such as Australia aren’t pushovers.
Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee
Team USA struggling in these international competitions isn’t shocking anymore – all of the excuses for that repulsive stretch between 2002-06 were regurgitated when America finished 7th in the 2018 World Cup – but it’s no less disappointing. The world ain’t scared, so go harder.
Having said that, this game also demonstrated how Team USA can still give the ball to a star such as Damian Lillard and watch him take over:
Letting the offense run through Kevin Durant isn’t a bad option, either:
The 2004 Olympics was the last time the U.S. failed to capture gold in men’s basketball. Beyond being a somewhat odd collection of talent, the squad was a mess behind the scenes.
In the absence of similar off-court drama this time around, a meltdown on that scale probably isn’t in order in Tokyo. But head coach Gregg Popovich and his staff clearly have a lot to work on during what’s left of Team USA’s training camp.
Team USA has three more exhibitions before heading to Tokyo, the next of which comes Tuesday against Argentina.