Team USA falls to Australia in exhibition play, LaVine scores five

The USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team Monday suffered its unprecedented second consecutive exhibition game loss, 91-83 to Australia.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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Team USA dropped their second straight exhibition game, falling to Australia 91-83. Bulls guard Zach LaVine scored five points. The USA Men's Olympic team will look for their first exhibition win when they take on Argentina on Tuesday night.

Maybe it's part of the plan for the rest of the basketball world not to take the USA team so seriously.

The USA Men's Olympic Basketball team Monday suffered its unprecedented second consecutive exhibition game loss, 91-83 to Australia. They play again 5 p.m. Tuesday against Argentina.

Bulls guard Zach LaVine, inheriting a similar role to that assigned to Jimmy Butler in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, scored five points, making one of his four three-point attempts and a pair of free throws. All LaVine's attempts were threes. He primarily was used in a supporting role in his 13 minutes of play, defending at the top of the perimeter and playing a facilitating role on offense. It was not unlike the way former Bull Butler was employed with the 2016 team when Butler averaged 5.6 points in the eight games and was ninth in scoring among the 12 U.S. players.

Damian Lillard led the USA team with 22 points, followed by Kevin Durant with 17 and Bradley Beal with 12. They were the only U.S. players scoring in double figures and seemed to be predominantly featured on offense for the USA team in what was the second tuneup for the Olympic games in Japan starting July 23.

But once again like in a loss to Nigeria Saturday, the international opponent with a lineup of NBA regulars including Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes, Patty Mills and Matisse Thybulle were more prepared for team play. The small USA team without a primary facilitating guard was out rebounded again and had fewer assists.

There still are additions for the USA team coming from the Finals series—the USA used Select Team players again—and more practices to come to develop teamwork and continuity. But the USA team suffered, in some sense, from its own talent.

Too often the USA players settled for difficult, long shots instead of working the ball around with patience. It's been noted the roster doesn't include a classic big man with Draymond Green Monday moving into the starting lineup at center for Bam Adebayo. Coach Gregg Popovich said the starting lineup remains uncertain as he experiments with combinations. Durant, Beal and Lillard started both games.

Without much size, the USA team lacked post play. Zone play is permitted in international play. So the Australia team like the Nigeria team was more adept at sealing off and crowding the lane to prevent penetration. As a result, the USA team failed to get into the paint enough to find clear shots from the corners in drive-and-kick actions. There was again too much settling for difficult shots that those USA players usually can make.

Zach LaVine shoots over Australian guard Patty Mills

Zach LaVine shoots over Australian guard Patty Mills

The Australia team shot 42 percent on threes, though the USA cut down on attempts compared with the opener, and 53 percent overall. The USA team shot 36 percent on threes and 46 percent overall. The USA team came out with more urgency and spirit than in the first game was more forceful to start the game. They led 46-37 at halftime after by 11 earlier.

Popovich believed the USA players tired some in the second half, which led to several turnovers in the backcourt and back door cuts for baskets by the veteran Australian players.

Australia, a highly ranked Olympic team seeking its first Olympic basketball medal, turned around the game with defensive pressure to start the second half with a 14-point third quarter turnaround.

While the USA team is facing more NBA talent on other teams than anytime since the pros began playing in 1992, the USA star players from the NBA also seemed to have difficulty adjusting to the officiating and rules. They didn't react Saturday when a Nigerian player knocked a ball off the rim which would have been goaltending in the NBA. Also, they didn't get foul calls being bumped into, as they would in the NBA, and when colliding with a defender after they shot. The USA team attempted 12 free throws to 10 for Australia with more physical play permitted than by the NBA officials.

Mercifully, there were no replays or challenges.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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