Gregg Popovich may have a problem on his hands.
Team USA dropped its second straight exhibition game on Monday night, falling to Australia 91-83 in Las Vegas.
The Americans fell to Nigeria 90-87 on Saturday. It was the first of five exhibition games they’ll play before making the trip to the Tokyo Olympics, where they are -600 favorites, according to BetMGM, to win the gold medal. The team has lost four times since the 1992 Dream Team, and were 54-2 before the back-to-back losses.
Team USA has lost two straight games only twice before since 1992, once at the 2002 FIBA World Cup and at the 2019 Basketball World Cup. The team is missing three players, as Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker are all still playing in the NBA Finals.
“These teams are experienced,” Damian Lillard said, via the Las Vegas Review Journal’s Sam Gordon. “They’ve spent a lot of time together. We’re still working at becoming a team.”
Nigeria, after seeing the game, couldn't help but have a bit of fun.
— D’Tigers | Nigeria Basketball (@NigeriaBasket) July 13, 2021
Popovich gets heated with reporter
Popovich got into an exchange with a reporter after the loss, upset when he asked about Team USA’s history of winning — and winning big — during exhibition games ahead of the Olympics.
Though Popovich has a point that not every game like this is a blowout, they’ve only dropped four of them over a nearly three decade stretch. The games don’t count, but it’s easy to question why they have lost two in a row.
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) July 13, 2021
When it comes to Olympic teams, though, the last two have almost only won in blowouts.
The 2016 team won by an average of 41.4 points in its five exhibition games leading up to the Rio de Janeiro games, and the 2012 team won by 26.6 points before London.
So, technically, the Americans do have a history of blowing out opponents in exhibitions — no matter how Popovich wants to phrase it.
Australia ends game on 11-1 run to close out Team USA
Team USA used a 20-6 run to take control of the game early before entering the half with a nine-point lead.
Australia rallied and closed out the third quarter on a 19-6 run, capped by a Chris Goulding 3-pointer that give it a five-point lead headed into the fourth. The Americans were held without a field goal and found themselves on the wrong side of an 11-1 run over the final 4:35 of the game, a drought that sealed the deal for the Boomers.
Lillard led Team USA with 22 points while shooting 6-of-11 from behind the arc, and Kevin Durant added 17 points. Bradley Beal put up 12 points. Those three were the only Americans to score in double figures.
Patty Mills led Australia with 22 points, and was followed closely by Joe Ingles’ 17. Matisse Thybulle and Goulding combined for 23 points off the bench. The Aussies shot nearly 53% from the field as a team.
Popovich and Team USA have three exhibition games left before making the trip to Japan, where a gold medal now seems far from guaranteed. They'll take on Argentina, who fell to Nigeria by 23, on Tuesday.
Still, despite the pair of losses, Popovich thought his team looked much improved on Monday.
“I thought we got better tonight,” Popovich said, via The Associated Press. “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 ... We rebounded better. We moved the ball better at the offensive end and had more pace. In the second half, we tired out.”
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