Before these exhibition games, the USA Men’s National Team was 54-2 in exhibition contests since 1992.
However, 2021 is a different world for Team USA.
Two nights after losing to Nigeria, the U.S. lost to Australia 91-83 at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Monday night.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, it is the first time Team USA has lost back-to-back exhibition games since professionals started playing in 1992.
Coming into the contest, Australia was ranked third globally by FIBA, and if it was not clear before, it’s clear now that winning a gold medal in Tokyo won’t be easy.
Damian Lillard, who scored 22 points against Australia, sees first-hand how much the world has closed the gap.
“These (international) teams are experienced, and we are still working at becoming a team,” Lillard said. “We’re not just going to roll the ball out and beat these teams … these teams have a starting five of NBA players now.”
Again, the closing of the gap in competition was a point of emphasis for Popovich, who said that believing the U.S. has continually beaten every team by a large margin over the last decade is an error in thinking.
“We have had close games against four or five international teams, and the good teams don’t get blown out,” Popovich said.
Australia was led by Spurs guard Patty Mills, who finished with 22 points and Joe Ingles, a Utah Jazz forward, added 17 points.
According to Ingles, Australia expected to beat the U.S. on Monday night.
“We walked into this game expecting to win,” Ingles said. “No disrespect to them, they’re a hell of a team; obviously, the guys they’ve got on their roster and Pop standing up there is always nice to see, but we came in here expecting to win the game, and that’s what we did.”
Team USA gets back at it on Tuesday night against Argentina. Maybe this will be the night that Team USA puts it all together.
Photo: (Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)