Team USA is now 2-0 in their exhibition season as they prepare for the. The Americans managed to build off of from a nine-point win over Spain on Friday to take down Australia, 102-86, at Marvel Stadium. Despite lingering concerns over Team USA's underwhelming roster, their first two games against world powers have gone off largely without a hitch. Both Spain and Australia managed to keep things close for parts of their game, but the Americans were never in serious trouble in either matchup.
Kemba Walker led the way for Team USA with 23 points, while Australia's offense was led by the hot shooting of two guards. Patty Mills and Chris Goulding both poured in 19 points, and even helped the Boomers hold a lead early in the second half. But the two of them alone couldn't outshoot Team USA. A 13-of-30 barrage from three-point range, including five bombs in a 32-point third quarter explosion, helped the Americans pull away in this one.
Team USA will match up with Australia again on Aug. 24, and will then close their exhibition season with a game against Canada on Aug. 26 -- stream every exhibition game via fuboTV (try for free). From there, they will have five days before the World Cup kicks off in China to set their roster and finish up any last preparations before the tournament. With that in mind, here are the biggest takeaways from Team USA's win over Australia.
Playing small paid dividends
Team USA made three changes to their starting lineup after Friday's win over Spain. Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell stayed in the starting backcourt, but Harrison Barnes, Khris Middleton and Mason Plumlee were replaced by Joe Harris, Jaylen Brown and Myles Turner. The move paid immediate dividends. Brown's athleticism in particular was a major problem for Australia.
Harris and Turner made Team USA much harder to defend. Zone defenses are far more prominent in international play as FIBA competition does not include a three-in-the-key rule, and the 3-point line is shorter at a uniform 22 feet and 1.75 inches, so increasing spacing is critical.
Turner is ideal in such an environment, as he can shoot three-pointers without making any sacrifices defensively. Sure enough, Team USA outscored Australia by 26 points when he played. He was the game's standout with 15 points and 14 rebounds. If he can rebound that well in the World Cup, Team USA will be able to surround him with shooters at all times and outscore any opponent in their way.
The beautiful game
Team USA led by only a point at halftime, and one stat explains why: They mustered only seven assists on their 44 points. It's not always a good sign when the players turn international games into one-on-one displays, but they managed to get their act together in time for the second half. They finished the game with 18 total assists, a figure that would have been higher had they not taken their foot off of the gas pedal. Team USA will never be able to match the ball movement of this tournament's best passing teams. Most international teams have far more chemistry and experience playing together, and that engenders high assist numbers. The Americans don't need to top them, but they need to play team basketball. They did so in the second half, which they won by 15 points.
The Americans have 13 players on their roster. They'll have to trim that figure down to 12 before they get to China, and the one standout from the roster's bubble was Kyle Kuzma. He went 4 of 5 from 3-point range, missing only a heave at the end of the first quarter.
Plumlee was not as productive. Not only did he struggle on both sides of the ball, but Turner's dominant performance may have been an indication that Team USA only needs to bring two big men to China. Turner and Brook Lopez are locks to make the roster. Plumlee needs to prove that he brings something different to the table, and he failed to do so in this game. Kuzma even closed the game at center, so the pressure will be on Plumlee in Team USA's next two games.
Team USA had spent most of its preparations for the World Cup in a bubble. They trained in Las Vegas, and played only one exhibition game against another world power. That game came in Anaheim against Spain. The tournament will not give the Americans home-court advantage. They will have to get used to playing against fans that aren't necessarily rooting for them, yet if today's victory is any indication, that won't be an issue. Australia has given Team USA fits ever since the 2016 Olympics, but even with over 50,000 roaring fans at Marvel Stadium, Gregg Popovich's squad still managed to pull away with a convincing victory. Team USA is starting to take shape before our eyes.