The United States lost back-to-back games while preparing for the Tokyo Olympics. This Monday night, the US team was defeated in Las Vegas by Australia, 91-83.
This is the first time since 1992 and the involvement of the professionals that the American team lost back-to-back friendly games. A few days ago, Nigeria became the first African team to take down the USA, and today Australia extended the crisis.
It is obvious that there is something wrong with Gregg Popovich’s team, which is nowhere near the expected level of play.
“Some guys have to get their legs and rhythm back,” Popovich said. “We’re sticking with the process.”
Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant were the best among the hosts, scoring 22 and 17 points, respectively. However, they weren’t that confident as they have been in the last two months.
However, they aren’t the problem. The rest of the crew isn’t contributing as it should. Jayson Tatum had only 8 points, having one airball from downtown. Zach LaVine added five, Bam Adebayo had six, and Keldon Johnson seven.
Bradley Beal, the second-best scorer this season, finished the match with 12 buckets.
“In the beginning, but we played really well. In the second half, it was just a totally different story. We kind of got tired, got lazy on defense, and that’s really where we got hurt.”
The USA had an 11-point advantage in the late first half, and it seemed at that point that the failure against Nigeria would be forgotten pretty fast. Yet as time went by in the second half, the Aussies kept grinding and cutting down the lead before sealing the win with a 10-1 run in the finish.
Patty Mills was the best player on the visiting team, with the San Antonio Spurs’ playmaker delivering 22 points. Mills was all over the place, and it is quite possible that the relationship with Popovich helped him understood some of the American tactics and game plan a bit better.
The Aussies were dominant under the rim, scoring 44 points from the paint, 20 more than the rivals while hitting 22 shots from 35 attempts. They also had more rebounds, 32-25, and there lies one more reason why they managed to win in Las Vegas.
Another NBA star was excellent, Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles, who had 17 points. The shooting forward explained after the match that he and his teammates expected to win this one.
“We walked into this game expecting to win,” said Ingles. “No disrespect to them, they’re a hell of a team; obviously the guys they’ve got on their roster and Pop standing up there is always nice to see, but we came in here expecting to win the game, and that’s what we did.”
Such mindset is enough proof that the gap between the US team and the rest of the world is narrower than ever and that the quality of other units is pretty high. Other national squads aren’t frightened by the USMNT anymore, and there lies the reason for more frequent losses of the Americans in the recent few years.
Gregg Popovich and his boys have a few more match before going to Tokyo. The first is against Argentina this Tuesday night. After that, the US team ahve two more tests, and then flies to Japan, where they open the Olympics against France, one of the biggest contenders for winning the gold medal.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.