Knocked back but still the heavy favorite to win Group A , the United States men’s basketball team looks to regroup against Serbia in Friday night’s 2016 Rio Games contest at Carioca Arena.
Team USA faced a five-point halftime deficit and had trouble containing an Australia squad that quickly established itself as the favorite’s main rival come the knockout stages, but Carmelo Anthony’s 31 points and record-scoring performance on top of a 13-8 fourth-quarter run led to a 98-88 victory.
The U.S. improved to 3-0 and remain the only undefeated squad in Group A with only two more games, versus the Serbians and France over the next four days, but were largely exposed as the Olympics most talented team that has little experience together.
"We beat a heck-of-a team," U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Australia has probably played the best of anybody in the Olympics. They played three really tough opponents, us being the third one. They just play lights-out basketball. They play so well together as one, and they’ve been together. For a lot of times on the court tonight, they had four guys who started against us in London. But they play as one, and for us, I thought it was a heck-of-a win, first of all because we beat a really good team, an outstanding team that was playing really well.
"For this group, that’s the first real, real international game we’ve had. The experience of playing in that. The exhibitions were played in America. The first two games we were significantly better than those teams. This is the real world now. That was good for us."
Krzyzewski stressed his team’s defense picked up in the second half and credited Anthony for a scoring barrage that made him the all-time leading scorer in U.S. men’s Olympic history. The New York Knicks star shot 11-21 from the field, nailing nine of his record 15 three-point attempts, and tied center DeMarcus Cousins for a game-high eight rebounds.
Kevin Durant struggled from the field (4-16) for 14 points, but his woes were indicative of the rest of the squad. Team USA shot 39.1 percent, by far its lowest rate in the Games, and failed to make Australia pay for its 17 turnovers.
Next up is a Serbia squad that is appearing in its first Olympics since 2004 in Athens. Serbia doesn’t feature nearly as many NBA players as Australia, but it will need a victory to keep hold of fourth place in the group.
The Serbs, coached by Aleksandar Djordjevic, feature Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, whose draft rights were picked up by the Sacramento Kings in the NBA Draft earlier this year.
Bogdanovic, 23, has netted 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent overall from the floor and 37.5 percent from three-point range. He could present match-up problems for the U.S. much like Australia’s Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova did.
Serbia pulled off a 24-point drubbing over the same Venezuelan side that gave the U.S. some early trouble, but fell to Australia by 15, and missed a huge opportunity for third place by falling to France, 76-75.
The Serbs managed to erase a 20-4 French advantage and proceeded to build a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter before the San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker nailed the go-ahead jumper with 31 seconds remaining.
Start Time: 6 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra