These games don’t count. Right now, that is the only saving grace for USA Basketball. And for quite probably the first time in 29 years of NBA players suiting up for the national team, there was a smattering of boos when a game ended — on home soil, no less. Patty Mills scored 22 points and Australia held the U.S. without a field goal for the final 4:34 on the way to beating the Americans 91-83 on Monday night, dropping the three-time defending Olympic gold medalists to 0-2 in their five-game slate of exhibitions leading up to the Tokyo Games.
“I thought we got better tonight,” said U.S. coach Gregg Popovich, whose team lost to Nigeria on Saturday. “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.”
Joe Ingles scored 17 points, Matisse Thybulle scored 12 and Chris Goulding had 11 for Australia. “We walked into this game expecting to win,” Ingles said. With good reason. Starting with the World Cup quarterfinals in China two years ago and then their two exhibitions in Vegas, the U.S. is 1-4 in its last five games with NBA players against international competition. In the most recent 105 games that preceded those, the U.S. went 101-4.