NEWS AU

US must learn from Boomers loss says coach

Veteran Team USA coach Gregg Popovich says the way his team responds to their shock loss to Australia will be key to their chances of defending their basketball world title next month in China.

The Americans made unwanted history as the first to lose to the Boomers in 55 years and 26 meetings, falling 98-94 in their World Cup warm-up match in Melbourne on Saturday.

With a host of NBA global names opting to skip the tournament, Team USA only have two current All-Stars in Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton, leading them to be described as one of the “worst ever” squads.

Criticism is sure to be fierce and Popovich said their emotional response would be important.

“It’s probably most important,” the long-terms San Antonio Spurs coach said.

“The loss means that we need to play better and it’s a measure of who you are.

“US is used to winning so hopefully we can get back on that track.”

Popovich said while the historic defeat was tough to swallow, they would be better for the experience after a 78-game winning streak ended at Marvel Stadium.

He felt the “tough nut” Australians gave them a lesson in physicality and teamwork.

“We learned some things tonight. We’re actually a better team than at the start of the game because of the knowledge that we gained,” he said.

“We looked discombobulated at times and made some more decisions … some of it is expected with a new group that’s trying to learn about each other and learn a system.

“The Aussies gave us a great lesson as far as where we want to be and how we have to play in this type of competition so we’re getting used to that and hopefully learning.”

He said his team scored enough points but needed to improve defensively to make a world title tilt.

“That’s got to be our calling card,” Popovich said.

“We didn’t hold them the way we needed to defensively and we need to be a good defensive and rebounding team and we weren’t today.”

US forward Harrison Barnes, who was one of their best with 20 points and six rebounds, said his team would continue to grow with another game playing together.

“This (Australia) is a veteran international team who plays well together and they run good sets,” said Barnes, who plays for Sacramento Kings.

“This was a lesson in how we can continue to improve – we have one more game before the world cup gets started so this was a great example of the little details.”

The Americans play Canada on Monday night in Sydney before flying out to China.




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