By Paulo Canalita
So much for those calling Team USA's 2019 FIBA World Cup roster a bunch of scrubs.
The Americans made quick work of Team Australia, 102-86, in an exhibition game on Thursday at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne. The match was attended by 51,218 people — said to be the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game in the country.
The entertaining face-off between the US and the Boomers was very telling of what's in store for both teams' respective international campaigns.
The score didn't quite tell the full story because peak Australia actually matched up well versus Team USA. That said, the Boomers — both starters and reserves — have to be at their best for the full 40 minutes.
The Aussies couldn't keep up with the US' relatively small lineup, which is a trend across all levels of basketball. Towering players like Brock Motum and Deng Adel will be called into question for the week. They were also without their biggest star, Ben Simmons, who has opted not to play in the World Cup.
Simmons' absence was barely felt, though, as the rest of the Boomers' NBAers showed up.
Patty Mills relished the challenge of going up against his Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and shared the scoring load with Chris Goulding with 19 points. Aron Baynes (8 pts 2 threes) and Andrew Bogut (6 pts 5 assists) held their own in the paint, while Matthew Dellavedova (10 pts 6 ast) and Joe Ingles (6 pts 2 steals) reintroduced themselves.
There's plenty to like about Australia, but they simply lack the dominant isolation scoring of Team USA. Nick Kay (0 pts in 11:39 minutes) is a great NBL player, but he struggled mightily against better competition. David Barlow, who missed the game due to a back injury, won't make much of a difference.
Kemba "FIBA Kemba" Walker caught the Boomers off guard with a scintillating second half, where put up 21 of his 23 markers. The Boston Celtics point guard's performance was proof that the US isn't short on superstar talent even without big names like LeBron James and Stephen Curry.
Myles Turner was the perfect big man for Pop's speedy five on the floor. The Indiana Pacers center had a dominant double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds in just 19 minutes of action. On the other hand, small-ball 5 Kyle Kuzma showed off his improved stretch ability with four three-pointers for 12 markers.
Donovan Mitchell (13 pts 2 stl) was just too much for the opposing wings. The chemistry and familiarity between Walker's Boston teammates was rather apparent, as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum each scored 11.
Team USA still has a long way to go, but things are certainly looking up for Pop and his wards. For Australia, they shouldn't be discouraged about the outcome and instead build on the positives. After all, we never know what is going to happen once the actual World Cup begins.