Kemba Walker playing during an international friendly against the Australian Boomers on Aug. 22, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.
Coach Gregg Popovich described Australia as a “huge threat” to win the upcoming FIBA World Cup in China. On Thursday, the U.S. men’s basketball team confirmed it’s a top contender in its own right, using a big third quarter to beat Australia 102-86 in the first of three exhibition games Down Under.
A total of 51,218 people were on hand to watch the friendly at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, setting a record for a basketball game in Australia.
The exhibition was the second of four for Team USA prior to its World Cup opener Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic in Shanghai, and the first of three in Australia.
Team USA is aiming for its third consecutive World Cup championship.
Though U.S. doesn’t have the star power of past dream teams right now, with just three NBA All-Stars on the roster, the team has been coming together since opening training camp earlier this month.
Download the Team USA app today to keep up with basketball and all your favorite sports, plus access to videos, Olympic and Paralympic team bios, and more.
Point guard Kemba Walker, who signed as a free agent with the Boston Celtics this summer, is captaining the team against Australia, along with Donovan Mitchell and Marcus Smart. The starting five Thursday consisted of Walker, Mitchell, Joe Harris, Jaylen Brown and Myles Turner.
Walker led the team in scoring with 23 points and added six rebounds, and Turner added 15 points and 14 rebounds.
It was a close game in the first half. The U.S. led by just one point, 44-43, at halftime.
Australia capitalized on a turnover to start the third quarter and took the lead, but a pair of layups by Turner and Walker got it back, and a 3-pointer by Turner made it 51-45. The U.S. went back to beyond the arc twice more before Australia would score again, building up a 12-point lead. The U.S. defense clamped down, outscoring Australia 32-18 over the course of the third and heading into the fourth held a 76-61 lead.
The U.S. faces Australia again on Saturday in Melbourne before battling Canada on Monday in Sydney.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.