BASKETBALL: U.S. World Cup team starts quickly, holds off Canada, 84-68 in Sydney

Mason Plumlee grabs one of 55 U.S. rebounds vs. Canada (Photo: USA Basketball/Nathaniel S. Butler)

Back in the friendly confines of an arena instead of an outdoor football stadium, the U.S. men’s World Cup team got off to a 20-9 first-quarter lead and cruised to a 84-68 win over Canada in Sydney, Australia on Monday.

The American squad, coming off a 98-94 loss in Melbourne to Australia on Saturday, was energetic from the tip and went up 11-2 and finished the quarter at 20-9.

The U.S. had a 46-31 lead at halftime after an 11-1 run in the final minutes, and 64-47 edge after three quarters and extended the lead to as much as 24 before losing some of the lead in the final minutes.

“Tonight was another good lesson for them to realize what the mindset has to be going into these games, how physical they are, how you have to sustain the energy for 40 minutes,” said U.S. head coach Gregg Popovich. “It’s coming along, but there’s a lot of improvement we can make, and that’s a good thing. I think we’ve got good potential there to continue to execute better than we are now. We competed, that wasn’t a problem, but execution takes time.”

Jaylen Brown led the U.S. with 19 points off the bench, followed by Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell with 12 each. The U.S. shot poorly again, at just 43% overall and 2-14 (14%) from three-point range. But Canada was held to just 32% from the floor (25-76) and the U.S. was back to a healthy rebounding edge at 55-37. The full box score is here.

Said Brown afterwards, “There is a lot of room to improve I think for this team, especially offensively. Defensively, we came out with the right mindset, and that’s half the battle, more than half the battle, having the right mindset. Now, we got to execute. Now, we got to take care of the ball. We got to rebound and play unselfishly, and we’ll be pretty good.”

The attendance of 15,155 at the Qudos Bank Arena was not like the wild throng of fans cheering their home team in Melbourne, but still an excellent crowd for an exhibition game.

It’s off to China now for the U.S., which will open World Cup play in Shanghai (CHN) on 1 September against the Czech Republic.