Australia hangs close against Team USA in first half, but can’t keep up in second as Americans cruise to 102-86 win

Melbourne, Australia • Team USA saw how it wanted to play on Thursday night. It’s just that, for one half, the Americans saw it from the other team.

After two quarters in which Australia hung tough with the No. 1 overall basketball team in the world, trailing by just a margin of 44-43 at the half, Gregg Popovich’s American backcourt came out of halftime copying the Boomers’ defensive urgency and an offensive spark to end up running away with Thursday’s FIBA World Cup warmup contest, 102-86.

But it wasn’t always easy. The first half was a display of the full force of Australia’s national basketball experience; the core of which has played together for nearly a decade. Point guard Patty Mills would set up Jazzman Joe Ingles, who could find a rolling Aron Baynes or former Ute center Andrew Bogut. Perhaps fueled by a crowd of 51,218 that attended the game in Melbourne, the Australian offense whirred early.

“You can feel the chemistry that they have with each other, moving without the ball, the back-door passes, the behind the back passes,” Donovan Mitchell explained.

There was also the defensive effort given by Australia, who forced turnovers by trapping Americans in the corners, or helping in the paint, drawing fouls. That aggressiveness was an approach point guard Kemba Walker and Mitchell copied in the second half, keying a 32-18 advantage in the third quarter that pushed the USA over the top. …

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