Lillard, Team USA Fall to Australia for 2nd Straight Exhibition Loss Before Olympics

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 13, 2021

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12: Patty Mills #5 hi-fives Nic Kay #15 of the Australia Men's National Team during the game against the USA Men's National Team on July 12, 2021 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Team USA dropped its second successive game ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, losing 91-83 to Australia in an exhibition Monday.

Many were left stunned when Nigeria took down the U.S. 90-87 on Saturday. It was a potentially foreboding sign in the short and long term while at the same time easy to dismiss as a one-off occurrence.

Now, the alarm bells might begin ringing inside USA Basketball.

The United States owned a nine-point lead at halftime, but Chris Goulding hit a buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter and give Australia a 69-64 lead.

Jayson Tatum put Team USA back ahead 82-80 at the 4:35 mark of the fourth quarter, only for Patty Mills to tie things up again with a pair of free throws. That was emblematic of how the U.S. simply couldn't put Australia away.

Down five points, the United States turned the ball over after a sequence of multiple passes that effectively sealed the result.

The Boomers shot 52.9 percent from the floor and went 10-of-24 from beyond the arc.

Notable Performers

Damian Lillard, United States: 22 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block

Bradley Beal, United States: 17 points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocks

Joe Ingles, Australia: 17 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal

Patty Mills, Australia: 22 points, two rebounds, four assists, one steal

Australia Demonstrates Medal Credentials

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons withdrew from Olympic consideration in June to focus on his individual game this summer. Based on Monday, Australia remains well poised to win its first medal in the Summer Games.

Mills is a free agent this offseason, and the longtime San Antonio Spurs guard might want to wait until after the Olympics to put pen to paper on a new deal:

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

That's tough, <a href="https://twitter.com/Patty_Mills?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Patty_Mills</a> 👀 <br><br>USA vs. Australia - NOW on NBCSN! <a href="https://t.co/Chkw6BG6Pg">pic.twitter.com/Chkw6BG6Pg</a>

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

Sheeeeeesh, <a href="https://twitter.com/Patty_Mills?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Patty_Mills</a> 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/SyBwlRUUTs">pic.twitter.com/SyBwlRUUTs</a>

Australia was a nuisance on defense all game, and a lot of that started with 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle. During a sequence in the fourth quarter, Durant attempted a mid-range jumper, only to have the All-Defensive star leap up for the denial.

The 24-year-old also looks like he'll thrive with a larger role than he's accustomed to having in Philly:

Tate Frazier @tatefrazier

Matisse Thybulle is really good, looks like a star for Australia. Still believe Ben Simmons could have benefited from playing with his teammate and potentially putting his country up as a real competitor against the US

Lauren Rosen @LaurenMRosen

The sample size is still small, but Matisse Thybulle has been elite from deep in international play thus far. Such a cool growth opportunity.

In general, continuity in the international game can go a long way, and that's something opposing countries can use to their advantage over Team USA. Many of Australia's key players aren't strangers to one another:

Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie

Chris Goulding, Joe Ingles, and Patty Mills have played together forever. <br><br>And John isn’t exaggerating about the “teen years” thing. Mills and Goulding were legit together on the 2007 U19 World Cup roster for Australia. That’s almost 15 years lol. <a href="https://t.co/HPlyPY1Udf">https://t.co/HPlyPY1Udf</a>

The postgame discourse will focus largely on the United States, but it shouldn't obscure how good the Boomers are.

Team USA Facing Tough Challenge in Tokyo

This was another reality check for the United States, perhaps even more so than the result against Nigeria. The U.S. should still be considered the gold medal favorite, but the road to a fourth straight title won't be easy because top contenders such as Australia aren't pushovers.

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

Team USA struggling in these international competitions isn't shocking anymore - all of the excuses for that repulsive stretch between 2002-06 were regurgitated when America finished 7th in the 2018 World Cup - but it's no less disappointing. The world ain't scared, so go harder.

Having said that, this game also demonstrated how Team USA can still give the ball to a star such as Damian Lillard and watch him take over:

Portland Trail Blazers @trailblazers

We are indeed used to seeing Dame make tough shots. <a href="https://twitter.com/Dame_Lillard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dame_lillard</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/usabasketball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USABasketball</a> <a href="https://t.co/XyNc0ce1dY">pic.twitter.com/XyNc0ce1dY</a>

NBC Sports @NBCSports

IT'S DAME TIME ⏰<a href="https://twitter.com/Dame_Lillard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Dame_Lillard</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USABMNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USABMNT</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/usabasketball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@usabasketball</a><a href="https://t.co/aCR8cpUS7Z">pic.twitter.com/aCR8cpUS7Z</a>

NBC Sports @NBCSports

.<a href="https://twitter.com/Dame_Lillard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Dame_Lillard</a> is ON tonight.<br> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USABMNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USABMNT</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/usabasketball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@usabasketball</a><a href="https://t.co/XK6oKGAxKK">pic.twitter.com/XK6oKGAxKK</a>

Letting the offense run through Kevin Durant isn't a bad option, either:

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

.<a href="https://twitter.com/KDTrey5?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KDTrey5</a> in the corner 👀<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USABMNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USABMNT</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/usabasketball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@usabasketball</a><br><br>📺 NBCSN<br>💻 <a href="https://t.co/1Dry7EbOtv">https://t.co/1Dry7EbOtv</a><br>📱 NBC Sports App <a href="https://t.co/6VhDmtq3uD">pic.twitter.com/6VhDmtq3uD</a>

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

4 straight 3️⃣'s for KD!<a href="https://twitter.com/KDTrey5?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KDTrey5</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USABMNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USABMNT</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/usabasketball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@usabasketball</a><br><br>📺 NBCSN<br>💻 <a href="https://t.co/1Dry7EbOtv">https://t.co/1Dry7EbOtv</a><br>📱 NBC Sports App <a href="https://t.co/76tjnCdiYJ">pic.twitter.com/76tjnCdiYJ</a>

The 2004 Olympics was the last time the U.S. failed to capture gold in men's basketball. Beyond being a somewhat odd collection of talent, the squad was a mess behind the scenes.

In the absence of similar off-court drama this time around, a meltdown on that scale probably isn't in order in Tokyo. But head coach Gregg Popovich and his staff clearly have a lot to work on during what's left of Team USA's training camp.

What's Next?

Team USA has three more exhibitions before heading to Tokyo, the next of which comes Tuesday against Argentina.


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