Coming off a 98-94 exhibition loss to Australia on Saturday that made international headlines, Team USA needed to reestablish their dominance in a big way heading into the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
An 84-68 thrashing of Canada did just that in a World Cup tune-up.
Jaylen Brown had 19 points, and Myles Turner had a double-double, with Team USA righting their ship on the defensive end and erasing the sour taste of their loss to Australia last week.
The U.S. overwhelmed a Canada team that struggled mightily from the floor, opening up an early lead and carrying a double-digit advantage for a majority of the contest. Canada's Kyle Wiltjer led all scorers with 21 points.
Team USA was coming off their first loss in international competition since 2006.
While this win had its fair share of flaws—Team USA turned the ball over 19 times and knocked down just two threes on 14 attempts—this is a roster in need of adjusted expectations. Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton are the only two All-Stars on the roster. This isn't the world-conquering Redeem Team, its (perhaps better) 2012 sequel or even the dominant 2016 gold-medal team that was clearly gearing up for a transition.
This is a young, (relatively) marginally talented group that's going to have to find ways to win rather than overpowering their opponents with their sheer presence. After a porous defensive effort that saw Patty Mills turn into a 30-point scoring Australian folk hero, coach Gregg Popovich will be pleased by Team USA holding Canada to 32 percent shooting and winning the rebounding edge 55-37.
This was a team built with a defensive presence and team cohesion in mind, and Team USA is probably going to have to win a couple of "ugly" games to survive in the World Cup.
Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell each added 12 points in the winning effort. Turner was dominant on the inside, putting up 10 points and 15 rebounds while acting as a strong defensive presence. The U.S. will need him to continue coming up big because of their lack of defense at the 4 and 5 spots.
Perhaps the most notable takeaway from this game was that the Australian crowd loves Brook Lopez. No, seriously. LOVES him. The Australian crowd went in an uproar every time he was shown on the bench or made his way to the floor—so much so that Popovich played into the crowd noise with the game in hand in the fourth quarter by going over to Lopez and faking out fans who wanted him in the game.
Lopez was actually put in the game minutes later, much to the glee of the Aussie crowd.
"What the hell was that all about, I don't understand," Popovich told reporters. "We screwed with it for a while, and we were trying to keep our focus because we don't want to make anything silly, but it got so ridiculous that we succumbed to the crowd. You don't know … I have no idea."
Team USA plays their first real game in Shanghai, China, against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1.
It’s a special best-of episode of The Full 48 featuring three of Howard Beck’s favorite interviews of the last 12 months including NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who discusses everything from the possible legalization of marijuana use in the league to NBA age limits; Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris who shares the best nicknames he’s heard since growing his beard to the Nets success to the childhood goals that still grace the walls of his old bedroom in his parents’ house; and the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who weighs in on the Michael Jordan GOAT debate, LeBron James, and the rebirth of athlete activism.