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

Again in 1992 on the Barcelona Olympics, opponents of the “Dream Group” appeared extra concerned about taking pictures with NBA All-Stars than making an attempt to cease them. Yeah, that is a distant reminiscence now.

The U.S. males’s basketball workforce dropped its second consecutive exhibition game with a 91-83 loss in opposition to Australia on Monday night time, marking the first time it has misplaced back-to-back exhibition video games since professionals started taking part in in 1992. Group 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 Group 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 mentioned.

MORE: Best highlights from USA vs. Australia

The Jazz ahead was doubtless talking for a couple of different nations with gold-medal aspirations. Group USA has shortly discovered that merely donning the purple, 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 Group USA followers are most likely asking themselves plenty of questions.

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

No, do not panic. Group USA has already secured its spot within the Tokyo Olympics. Will probably be taking part in in Group A with the Czech Republic, France and Iran.

So the whole lot is okay, and Group USA will determine issues out?

Effectively, if you happen to hearken to Group USA coach Gregg Popovich, the People don’t have anything to fret about.

“I used to be happy. I assumed we received higher tonight,” Popovich mentioned after the loss to Australia. “After a short while collectively, there’s plenty of issues that need to be coated, however the first half and the second half had been two completely different beasts. Within the first half, we defended the best way we wished to defend, the best way we didn’t defend in opposition to Nigeria. We had 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 a little bit bit, too, and we did not maintain the board the identical method. The protection wasn’t the identical. Our tempo wasn’t the identical. … Typically, we want extra conditioning, which is completely comprehensible. We’re simply sticking with the method of making an attempt 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 really jarring to listen to the top coach of the U.S. males’s basketball workforce discuss making enhancements and ethical victories. Popovich unsurprisingly tried to spin the end result as a optimistic, however the reality is Group USA shouldn’t be dropping these video games with its stage of expertise.

Why is Group USA struggling a lot?

As Popovich famous, protection and rebounding have been points in each video games. Group 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 shocking drawback: Group USA has appeared out of kinds in crunch time. Regardless of having stars corresponding to Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard able to taking on at any second, this squad has been outplayed within the fourth quarter. Nigeria held off a late comeback try on Saturday, and Australia outscored Group 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 greatest 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 could’t be ignored that these guys are studying to play collectively in a distinct setting than the NBA. It is on the teaching employees 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 plenty of time collectively,” Lillard mentioned. “We’re nonetheless working at turning into a workforce, nonetheless getting our legs underneath 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 precise method, compete, and we have got to come back out right here to win and do the whole lot to present ourselves our finest likelihood to win.

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

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

Extra sport reps with completely 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 completely different mixtures of gamers work collectively. That experimentation may repay in the long term.

“I believe 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 shifting,” Lillard mentioned. “We’re form of overthinking, making an attempt to run performs, making an attempt to remain out of one another’s method and overly making an attempt to do the precise factor. However I believe, to start out tonight, our tempo was higher. We pushed the ball up. We stored it easy. We attacked.

“We had been pitching it and making the additional cross, typically an excessive amount of, however I believe that simply confirmed that we’re shifting in the precise path and figuring one another out.”

It’s going to 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, Group USA’s success (or lack thereof) will largely come right down to bringing constant depth and focus. The message has been despatched to the People loud and clear: Having the most effective roster on paper can solely take a workforce to date.

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

Group 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 lately.


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