What losses to Australia, Nigeria mean for USA men’s basketball ahead of 2021 Olympics

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Again in 1992 on the Barcelona Olympics, opponents of the “Dream Crew” appeared extra interested by taking images with NBA All-Stars than attempting to cease them. Yeah, that is a distant reminiscence now.

The U.S. males’s basketball workforce dropped its second consecutive exhibition sport with a 91-83 loss towards Australia on Monday evening, marking the primary time it has misplaced back-to-back exhibition video games since professionals started enjoying in 1992. Crew USA was beforehand 54-2 in exhibitions previous to this tough stretch.

Joe Ingles, who scored 17 factors in Australia’s win, was requested what it meant to take down Crew USA. 

“I imply, it is most likely not the reply you are gonna be searching for, however we walked into this sport tonight anticipating to win,” Ingles stated.

MORE: Greatest highlights from USA vs. Australia

The Jazz ahead was probably talking for just a few different nations with gold-medal aspirations. Crew USA has shortly discovered that merely donning the pink, white and blue jerseys isn’t any assure of victory, however what do the defeats by the hands of Australia and Nigeria actually imply with the Tokyo Olympics quick approaching?

Let’s break this down in a Q&A format — as a result of Crew USA followers are most likely asking themselves a variety of questions.

Crew USA misplaced two video games in a row. Are the Individuals going to overlook the 2021 Olympics?!

No, do not panic. Crew USA has already secured its spot within the Tokyo Olympics. It is going to be enjoying in Group A with the Czech Republic, France and Iran.

So every thing is okay, and Crew USA will determine issues out?

Effectively, when you hearken to Crew USA coach Gregg Popovich, the Individuals don’t have anything to fret about.

“I used to be happy. I believed we acquired higher tonight,” Popovich stated after the loss to Australia. “After a short while collectively, there’s a variety of issues that should be lined, however the first half and the second half have been two totally different beasts. Within the first half, we defended the best way we needed to defend, the best way we didn’t defend towards Nigeria. We have been extra bodily. We sustained the protection longer. We rebounded higher. We moved the ball higher on the offensive finish and had extra tempo.

“The second half, we drained out. When that occurs, you get hit mentally somewhat bit, too, and we did not maintain the board the identical manner. The protection wasn’t the identical. Our tempo wasn’t the identical. … Generally, we want extra conditioning, which is completely comprehensible. We’re simply sticking with the method of attempting to get higher with each sport. And we did that tonight, so I used to be happy with what I noticed.”

Whereas hitting the panic button now could also be a bit untimely, it is actually jarring to listen to the top coach of the U.S. males’s basketball workforce speak about making enhancements and ethical victories. Popovich unsurprisingly tried to spin the consequence as a optimistic, however the truth is Crew USA shouldn’t be shedding these video games with its stage of expertise.

Why is Crew USA struggling a lot?

As Popovich famous, protection and rebounding have been points in each video games. Crew USA has been outrebounded 78-59, and its opponents have shot 48.2 p.c from the sector and 45.5 p.c from 3-point vary. That is a recipe for catastrophe.

One stunning drawback: Crew USA has regarded out of kinds in crunch time. Regardless of having stars akin to Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard able to taking up at any second, this squad has been outplayed within the fourth quarter. Nigeria held off a late comeback try on Saturday, and Australia outscored Crew USA 11-1 over the ultimate four-and-a-half minutes on Monday. The late-game execution have to be higher.

However what is the largest drawback right here?

The largest wrongdoer seems to be the shortage of chemistry and familiarity with this group. That will sound like an excuse, however it might’t be ignored that these guys are studying to play collectively in a distinct surroundings than the NBA. It is on the teaching workers and gamers to eradicate the awkward possessions that finish with shrugs and confused expressions.

“Very first thing that involves thoughts for me is simply the truth that these groups are skilled. They’ve spent a variety of time collectively,” Lillard stated. “We’re nonetheless working at turning into a workforce, nonetheless getting our legs beneath us, getting in form. We’re not simply going to come back out right here, roll the ball out and beat these groups. We have got to play the appropriate manner, compete, and we have to come back out right here to win and do every thing to offer ourselves our greatest likelihood to win.

“If we do not, we might be beat. That is the primary factor that stood out to me after these first two.”

How does Crew USA get again heading in the right direction?

Extra sport reps with totally different five-man models ought to naturally result in total enchancment. Popovich informed reporters that the beginning lineup would not matter a lot as a result of he solely desires to see how totally different combos of gamers work collectively. That experimentation may repay in the long term.

“I feel the extra time we spend on the ground collectively, the extra we’ll determine one another out. And we’ll determine methods to get the ball transferring,” Lillard stated. “We’re sort of overthinking, attempting to run performs, attempting to remain out of one another’s manner and overly attempting to do the appropriate factor. However I feel, to begin tonight, our tempo was higher. We pushed the ball up. We saved it easy. We attacked.

“We have been pitching it and making the additional go, typically an excessive amount of, however I feel that simply confirmed that we’re transferring in the appropriate route and figuring one another out.”

It should additionally assist so as to add Devin Booker, Jrue Vacation and Khris Middleton when the 2021 NBA Finals conclude. Vacation particularly ought to present a lift together with his elite perimeter protection.

On the finish of the day, although, Crew USA’s success (or lack thereof) will largely come all the way down to bringing constant depth and focus. The message has been despatched to the Individuals loud and clear: Having the very best roster on paper can solely take a workforce thus far.

Crew USA remains to be going to win the gold medal, proper?

Crew USA stays the favourite to win the gold medal on the 2021 Olympic Video games. However as we have already discovered, being the favourite does not imply a lot today.



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