Team USA might indeed win its fourth consecutive Olympic gold next month in Tokyo. But if they do, it will be a story of overcoming adversity.
The Americans lost their second consecutive exhibition Monday, this time bested by Australia 91-83 in Las Vegas. Dating to the 2019 World Cup, where they finished seventh, Team USA has lost four of their past five games. It also has lost two in a row now to Australia, a team expected to contend for the gold in Japan.
It was a better showing than the loss to Nigeria on Saturday but just reading those words is a little mind-boggling considering the pedigree of this roster and coaching staff. Damian Lillard, who had 22 points, and Kevin Durant, who had 17 points, definitely looked more like All-Stars. But in the end, they weren’t able to deliver clutch shots.
The final indignity came with one minute to play and the U.S. down five as Jayson Tatum tossed up an air ball on a corner 3-point try. It was better than the next possession, which resulted in a turnover.
The execution differential between the teams was glaring. Over and over and over the Aussies were able to throw passes into the middle to players either wide open from great cuts or in an advantageous matchup. Maybe it’s a little early in this process for heavy game planning but it was clear that Australia felt it could take advantage of a relatively small U.S. roster.