Australia hands Team USA second straight exhibition loss
For the first time since professionals began playing in 1992, Team USA has lost back-to-back exhibition games.
Australia beat the US national team, 91-83, Monday, July 12 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.
“It is different,” guard Damian Lillard said. “In the past, I’d see one guy on a different team that’s in an NBA rotation and then they might have a guy on the bench that’s just on a team. Now you go out there and the whole starting five are from NBA teams and they all are rotation players.
“It’s also not the first time I’ve seen Team USA be tested, maybe not beat two times in a row but I’ve seen it before.”
Despite the second straight loss for the team, head coach Gregg Popovich’s exhibition games goal remains the same.
“I was pleased, I thought we got better tonight,” Pop said. “After a short time together, a lot of things have to be covered. But the first half and second half were two different beasts.”
Lillard again touted the rest of the world’s talent-level.
“We’re not just going to roll the ball out and beat these teams,” Lillard said. “We have to play the right way, compete and we have to come out here to win and we have to do anything to give ourselves our best chance to win. If not, we can be beat.”
Lillard led the team in scoring with 22 points including six made three-pointers.
Highly-accomplished Olympian Kevin Durant added 17 points while guard Bradley Beal added 12 points rounding out the only US players to score in double-figures.
Six players scored at least 10 points in the exhibition opener against Nigeria.
“The first thing that comes to mind with me is these teams are experienced and have spent a lot more time together,” LIllard said. “We are still working at becoming a team, we’re still getting our legs under us, getting in shape.”
One improvement though not entirely told by the stat sheet was ball movement as Team USA tallied one more assists than it did versus Nigeria.
“I think the more time we spend on the floor together, the more we’ll figure each other out and more ways to get the ball moving,” Lillard said. “We’re kind of overthinking, trying to run plays, trying to stay out of each other’s way and overly trying to do the right thing.”
Popovich and company tweaked the starting lineup heading into the game against Australia swapping forward Jayson Tatum and center Bam Adebayo for forwards Jerami Grant and Draymond Green.
After the game, Pop noted again that the starting lineups in these exhibition games aren’t exactly indicative of the team’s plans for the Olympics.
“The starting lineups don’t mean anything,” he said. “We’re just putting together different combinations just how they work because these guys have never played with each other before. So it’s important during this preliminary phase to see what we’ve got.”
Select team call-up and San Antonio forward Keldon Johnson shined bright in moments scoring seven points in 13 minutes.
“I thought he performed well,” Popovich said about his second-year Spur. “He’s a physical kid, he played good team basketball -- he moved it. He took appropriate shots, I thought he was real solid.”
Two-time Olympian Kevin Love didn’t play in the game but Pop assured the media after the game he is indeed healthy.