Despite all the consternation over Team USA’s streak-snapping loss to Australia on Saturday, things may just be alright.
In their final international exhibition before the FIBA World Cup, the Americans dominated Canada, 84-68, in Sydney, Australia.
Seemingly burnt from their narrow loss just two days earlier, Team USA got off to a quick 20-9 lead in the first quarter and built up a 46-31 lead by halftime. Team captain Donovan Mitchell punctuated the end of the period with a rare one-handed, buzzer-beating alley-oop from Khris Middleton.
“We really locked in,” starting center Myles Turner said. “I think last game was a wake-up call for us, and we took that to heart and really performed.”
Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 19 points off the bench on terrific 8-of-11 efficiency from the field. Turner added his best performance yet down low with 10 points, 15 rebounds and a pair of blocks, while Mitchell added 12 points, albeit on 12 shots.
Kemba Walker, the lone All-NBA player still on the roster, was impressive again as well with 12 points. He displayed excellent attacking skills, as he drew foul fouls and seven free throws and made one particularly acrobatic lay-in.
Team USA never let the game get back to single digits in the second half and extended its lead to as many as 24 points after a fourth-quarter Derrick White lay-up.
There were still a few issues for the team to iron out. The team only shot 43.8 percent from the field — including 2-of-14 from behind the arc — and committed 19 turnovers. Canada is not a very experienced team, so they’ll have to be better against stronger competition. But it’s nice to get another win under their belt and the taste of the Australia loss out of their mouth.
“It’s definitely going to take some time; it’s a process,” Brown said. “But we’ve got to speed up that learning curve. We can’t have any drop-offs, and we’ve got a great responsibility on our shoulders, so we’ve got to come out and play really great basketball.”
What comes next for Team USA?
Team USA will get a much-deserved day off on Tuesday before flying to Shanghai for the FIBA World Cup. Their first three opponents are already set, with games against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1, Turkey on Sept. 3 and Japan on Sept. 5.
The Americans will be favored in all of their games, but particularly in those games. Assuming they are one of the two top teams in their group, they'll advance to the second-round groups, where finishing in the top two of that group will send them to the quarterfinals
Team USA doesn’t actually need to win the World Cup to qualify for the Olympics; they just need to be among the top two finishers among teams from the Americas. But even after dozens of star departures, they and their country still have that expectation of dominance.
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