Team USA drops to 0-2 in exhibition play with 91-83 loss to Australia

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Unquestionably stacked with talent, Team USA has been together for six days.

It showed on Monday night in Las Vegas — and it wasn’t pretty.

When Australia upped its defensive pressure in the second half, and particularly down the stretch, the American’s execution fell apart. Australia looked like a team that had been together and knew what it wanted to do. Team USA looked lost.

The result was a 91-83 Team Australia win that dropped USA Basketball to 0-2 in exhibition play in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in two weeks.

It’s too early to hit the panic button, but this loss is another red flag for USA Basketball. The American defense has a long way to go, in particular.

You could feel some of that tension in a classic Gregg Popovich moment postgame.

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Popovich is also spot on — this is not 1992, and to expect blowouts of the top teams around the world is unrealistic. The rest of the world has closed the gap with America on the court. Australia is a good team with a legitimate shot at getting a medal in Tokyo (they finished fourth in Rio). The Boomers are led by the Spurs’ Patty Mills — who is a beast in international play and led the team with 22 points — plus have current and former NBA players such as Joe Ingles, Matisse Thybulle, Aron Baynes, Dante Exum, Matthew Dellavedova, and Josh Green.

The Boomers beat the Americans three years ago in a friendly before the FIBA World Cup (where the USA finished seventh) and believed they could do the same Monday night.

“We walked in here expecting to win the game,” Ingles said.

Mills was on fire and even crossed up Kevin Durant at one point.

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Still, the USA roster is deeper and more talented. After the loss to Nigeria in the first exhibition game, more of a response was expected.

We saw those steps forward in the first half, when the ball was popping for Team USA. Drive and kick with an extra pass to the open shooter, or players were cutting to the rim and being found. With that everyone found a little more room to operate. They looked more like a team.

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However, the American defense struggled against an Australian team with more time together (not just this year but playing together in previous international competitions). Jayson Tatum just lost his man on cuts at some point, help rotations were late across the board, and finding a mix of perimeter defenders and rim protection has not been easy for Popovich.

The defensive end of the court may be the bigger issue for the Americans in Tokyo. It looked like it on Monday night.

But that doesn’t mean the offense looked dominant. By the end, the ball movement was gone and the USA was playing “your turn then my turn” between Durant, Damian Lillard, and usually Bradley Beal.

Lillard led the Americans with 22 points and shot 6-of-11 from 3. Durant added 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting overall, while Beal added a dozen.

On the injury front, Baynes left the game in the first half after banging knees with Bradley Beal on a Beal drive. While Baynes did not return to the game, Australia coach Brian Goorjian played it down after the game saying it was nothing serious or long-term.

The Americans are back on the court Tuesday night against Argentina, and we’ll see if more time playing together starts to bring some of the cohesion Team USA desperately lacks right now.

            Here's more on Team USA
Watch Patty Mills drain game winner to lift Australia past Argentina Watch Precious Achiuwa shut down Kevin Durant’s dunk attempt No easy road to gold: Nigeria upsets Team USA in pre-Olympic exhibition                                     

Team USA drops to 0-2 in exhibition play with 91-83 loss to Australia originally appeared on NBCSports.com