Team USA, led by captain Kemba Walker’s game-high 23 points, pulled away from Australia in the second half Thursday en route to a 102-86 exhibition basketball victory in Melbourne.
The Americans are now 2-0 in Australia as they prepare for the upcoming FIBA World Cup running Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China.
Myles Turner chipped in a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds before 50,000 fans packed into Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium. Donovan Mitchell added 13 points, Kyle Kuzma was 4-for-5 from 3-point range for 12 points and Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum scored 11.
“It was a physical game, the competitiveness was great on both ends,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said (via USA Basketball) after the game that tipped off at 7:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET). “I thought the Boomers run some hellacious offense, really hard to guard, they do a great job moving and cutting. Coach (Andrej) Lemanis has got them at a high level in that regard.”
It was a strong shooting night by the Americans as they hit 48 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range. Walker led a balanced attack in which six players — and four starters — scored in double figures.
There were familiar faces on both benches, with six players on Australia’s team on NBA rosters. Notable teammates turned opponents were USA’s Mitchell vs. Australia’s Joe Ingles, who play for the Jazz.
Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut also played key minutes for the home team as basketball-crazy Australian fans turned out to Marvel Stadium — normally home to Australian Rules Football and soccer — to cheer on their heroes as well as see some of the best players in the world from the United States, though this version of Team USA has been notable for those who’ve opted not to compete in the FIBA World Cup.
“It was an incredible atmosphere,” Tatum said, “unique experience.”
The court setup at the stadium was similar to what has become popular for the NCAA Final Four, with a raised court in the middle and fans surrounding it in temporary seats.
Down by 11 in the second quarter, 39-28, Australia clamped down defensively to close the opening half. Mills, who plays for Popovich with the Spurs, drilled a 3 just before the buzzer to complete a 15-5 run and reduce the U.S. lead to one at the half.
Australia grabbed a lead to open the third quarter, but the U.S. matched the Boomers with a big run. This time, the Americans didn’t let Australia back in the game. After Australia went up 45-44, the U.S. put together a 13-0 run. The U.S. hit 13 of 19 shots in the third quarter, outscoring Australia, 32-18, and never looked back.
The teams square off again Saturday in Game 2 at Marvel Stadium as World Cup preparation continues.
“We need to make a few adjustments, a few mistakes that we had,” Kuzma said. “Obviously, they are going to make adjustments, and we just got to react to those.”
Turner added: “It definitely changes everything, because they kind of see what we are about, what we do. We just have to be ready for them.”