The United States rebounded from a rare loss two days earlier to outclass Canada 84-68 in a pre-World Cup exhibition basketball game Monday.
At the same arena where the Americans won Olympic gold at the Sydney 2000 Games the U.S. never trailed, leading 20-9 after the first quarter and 46-31 at halftime. Canada was hurt by a poor shooting percentage in the first half, netting just 12 for 43 and three for 14 from the three-point range.
On Saturday, Australia stunned the U.S. 98-94 before a crowd of more than 52,000 in Melbourne, a result that ended the Americans’ 78-game winning streak.
— NBA (@NBA) August 26, 2019
The U.S. is missing top NBA players such as LeBron James, James Harden, Paul George and Stephen Curry. It was a dour scoring game after the exciting Saturday result in Melbourne, with both teams committing numerous turnovers Monday.
Jaylen Brown had 19 points to lead the Americans, who out-rebounded Canada 55-37. Donovan Mitchell added 12 points and four assists; Kemba Walker scored 12 points and Myles Turner finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.
Kyle Wiltjer had 21 points for Canada, while Orlando Magic center Khem Birch — Canada’s lone NBA player in the game — had 13 points and six rebounds.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve enjoyed our time here,” Wiltjer said. “Let’s not forget these are practice games.”
Overall, the Canadians shot just 35% from the field and 6-for-23 (26 from three-point range.
Andrew Nembhard, who injured his knee last week, and Kaza Kajami-Keane (ankle) both returned for Canada, while Brady Heslip, a late arrival for the Canadians, played his first game in Australia.
Canada was missing Oshae Brissett, who sat out with an injury.
Perhaps the most entertaining moment of the game came in the final five minutes, with Team USA decidedly in control of the outcome. Fans at Qudos Bank Arena began boisterously chanting “We want Lopez!” in an effort to get USA reserve center Brook Lopez back into the game. Their pleas eventually worked as USA coach Gregg Popovich had Lopez check back into the game with 1 minute, 13 seconds left.
The fans wanted Brook Lopez in the game, so Coach Pop granted them their wish! 😂
— NBA TV (@NBATV) August 26, 2019
The last time the Americans — counting major international tournaments and exhibitions with NBA players on the floor — lost a game was the semifinals of the 2006 world championships. The American program has won gold in every competition since, including three straight in the Olympics and two consecutive World Cup titles.
Canada has also been hit hard by missing NBA players, with Miami Heat’s Kelly Olynyk the latest big-name player to pull out after sustaining a knee injury.
He joined Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, R.J. Barrett, Tristan Thompson, Dwight Powell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Boucher and Nickeil Alexander-Walker as other Canadians to miss the World Cup in China.
A FIBA World Cup where Serbia has already made very clear it expects to win gold, where reigning Kia MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will lead Greece, where France figures to have a medal shot and now with the Australians absolutely knowing they can beat the U.S., will begin next week with no shortage of realistic title hopefuls.
USA Basketball is No. 1 in FIBA’s world rankings, but so far in the run-up to this World Cup — with most of the top NBA stars deciding to not play this summer — the Americans have not looked like a lock for more gold.
After a rest day on Aug. 27 and practice on Aug. 28, the USA will depart Sydney for Shanghai, China, where it will first play Czech Republic at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 1, followed by Turkey at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 3 and Japan at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 5.
Following three preliminary round games for each team, the top two teams from each group advance to second round groups and will play two more games. The top two teams from each of the four second round groups earn a berth into the quarterfinals on Sept. 10 or 11.
Canada: It was the third head-to-head meeting between Canada coach Nick Nurse and U.S. coach Gregg Popovich. They went 1-1 against each other in NBA play last season, Nurse’s Toronto Raptors losing in San Antonio on Jan. 3 but beating Popovich’s Spurs in Canada on Feb. 22. Canada finished 4-3 in its pre-World Cup exhibitions, starting with a split of a two-game series with Nigeria before five games in Australia.
USA: The Americans finished their four-game World Cup warm-up tour 3-1 after beating Spain and splitting two games with Australia. The U.S. is planning to stay in Sydney until mid-week, then arrive in Shanghai early Thursday. Indiana center Myles Turner said the loss to Australia will humble the U.S. and serve as a wake-up call. “Teams are looking to beat us, and we understand that now. We just have to bring it every night,” Turner said.
Nurse is getting the full tour of the other side of the world this year. The Canadians have been in Australia for a week or so, and now head to China for the World Cup. Then, Nurse will be in Japan when the world champion Raptors (albeit now without NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard) play preseason games against Houston on Oct. 8 and Oct. 10.
Popovich was disappointed that Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma’s left ankle injury meant he wouldn’t be able to compete in the World Cup. The Americans sent Kuzma home Saturday with the injury, a move that finalized the 12-man U.S. roster. They were in Australia with 13 finalists for 12 World Cup spots. “It’s a huge disappointment, because he was a young, energetic guy who was really learning and could play a lot of positions for us,” Popovich said. “Hopefully he’ll heal quickly.”
Canada: Opens World Cup play Sept. 1 vs. Australia in Dongguan, China.
USA: Opens World Cup play Sept. 1 vs. Czech Republic in Shanghai.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.