The U.S. team defeated defending world champion Spain 83-76 in the last exhibition match before heading to Tokyo on Sunday night, providing the necessary motivation for the Olympics. After falling behind by 9 points in the first half, the US team showed their shooting prowess in the second half, exactly the same as the lineup envisioned by coach Popovich in the selection.
Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Zach LaVine scored nine three-pointers together. Keldon Johnson after Kevin Love left, he was promoted to the senior team on Friday. He immediately showed how fresh, young legs can make a difference. He scored 15 points on 7 of 9 shots because of his aggressiveness on the court and offense. After leaving the fourth quarter, the huge crowd in Mandalay Bay stood up and applauded Johnson.
Like Johnson, LaVine, who had the advantage of having more rest after the Chicago Bulls missed the playoffs, has shown plenty of energy in Las Vegas in the past two weeks. That was necessary. He showed two more powerful dunks in the process of scoring 13 points.
Americans face a variety of challenges, from the loss of Bradley Beal and preparation time due to COVID19 to seasonal fatigue that affects their health, to the lack of three core players playing in the NBA Finals. They don’t have the staff or the strength to play the fast offense that former coach Mike Krzyzewski trademarked for winning the last three gold medals, at least until the arrival of reinforcements. They have to rely on unfamiliar players to react and read in the middle of the court.
But they have the strength, Durant scored 14 points, Lillard scored 19 points. The two led the team to attack. Spain led Ricky Rubio with 23 points. On Sunday, the Americans will take part in the opening Olympic Game against France in Saitama near Tokyo. Depending on the end time and duration of the final, they might play this game with only nine players.