Team USA coach's tense moment after latest Boomers upset

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Gregg Popovich got into a tense back and forth with a reporter after Team USA suffered a shock loss to Australia. Pictures: Getty Images
Gregg Popovich got into a tense back and forth with a reporter after Team USA suffered a shock loss to Australia. Pictures: Getty Images

Team USA coach Gregg Popovich had a tense exchange with a journalist following the team's shock upset at the hands of Australia ahead of the Olympics.

The traditional basketball powerhouse has suffered consecutive upsets in their warm-up matches ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics - first to Nigeria, before the Boomers stunned them again on Tuesday.

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It was the second straight loss Team USA has copped against Australia, with the Boomers memorably recording their first ever victory over the perennial favourites at a 2019 exhibition match in Melbourne prior to the last FIBA World Cup.

Patty Mills starred in the victory, dropping 22 points as the Aussies restricted the Americans to zero field goals in the final four-and-a-half minutes.

Joe Ingles scored 17 points, Matisse Thybulle scored 12 and Chris Goulding had 11 for Australia.

It was after the game however, where the real fireworks began.

Despite Team USA still entering the Olympics as favourites, the successive losses in warm-up games lead The Athletic's Joe Vardon to question point guard Damian Lillard whether it was a different experience for him, having watched previous iterations of the US national team 'blow out' opponents regularly.

While Lillard gave a fairly diplomatic answer, Popovich weighed in before the next question could be asked - prompting a tense back and forth between himself and Vardon.

“Let me also answer that question,” Popvich started.

“You asked the same sort of the question, the same family of question last time where you assume things that are not true. You just mentioned blowing these teams out. That’s never happened. So, I don’t know where you get that.”

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A back and forth then erupted, with Popovich repeatedly asking 'can I finish?' before eventually giving a more full answer.

“So, you’ll be quiet now while I talk, then I’ll listen to you,” he said.

“When you make statements about in the past just blowing out these other teams, number one, you give no respect to the other teams; I talked to you last time about the same thing.

“We’ve had very close games against four or five countries at all these tournaments. So, the good teams do not get blown out. There are certain games that might happen in one of the tournaments — the World Championships or the Olympics — where somebody gets blown out. But in general, nobody is blowing anybody out from the good teams.

“So, when you make a statement like that it’s like you assume that’s what is going on. And that’s incorrect.”

Boomers stun Team USA in Tokyo Olympics warm-up match

Damian Lillard led Team USA with 22 points, while Kevin Durant scored 17 and Bradley Beal finished with 12.

But the Americans wasted a 10-point second-half lead, and have dropped back-to-back games for just the third time since NBA players began wearing the red, white and blue in 1992.

The other instances: two straight in the 2002 FIBA World Championship and two straight in the 2019 Basketball World Cup.

The USA finished sixth in the first tournament, seventh in the other.

And while these are glorified scrimmages, this much is already certain — a medal seems far from a lock for the USA.

Jayson Tatum's layup with 4:35 left put the Americans up 82-80. Australia scoured the U.S. 11-1 the rest of the way, and Mills — who plays for USA coach Gregg Popovich in San Antonio — did most of the damage for the Boomers down the stretch.

Dante Exum has impressed for the Boomers after returning from a lengthy injury layoff. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Dante Exum has impressed for the Boomers after returning from a lengthy injury layoff. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Favoured by 16.5 points before the game according to bookies, the Americans looked the part for much of the first half.

A 20-6 run — capped by five points from Select Team call-up Keldon Johnson — put the USA up by eight late in the opening quarter, and Lillard closed out his 16-point first half with a 3-pointer 31.7 seconds before intermission that gave the Americans a 46-35 lead.

The halftime lead was nine, the same lead the Americans had early in the third quarter against Nigeria before letting it slip away.

The third-quarter lead for the USA was as big as 10 and was 58-50 when Lillard made a 3-pointer midway through the period.

But Australia closed the quarter on a 19-6 run, Goulding hit a 3-pointer as time expired and Australia took a 69-64 lead into the final 10 minutes.

The extraordinary result left the basketball world stunned and Aussie fans dreaming big ahead of the Olympics.

With agencies

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