Another day and it was another spectacular sight in these Exhibition Games leading into the FIBA World Cup with more than 15,000 packing Qudos Bank Arena to watch USA Basketball bounce back with an 84-68 victory over Canada on Monday night.
The game was the last in preparations for the FIBA World Cup starting in China this weekend for both nations on this trip down under which was again received favourably by the monster Sydney crowd in attendance.
The 15,155 that turned on to watch the North American rivals is the second biggest crowd to ever watch basketball at Qudos Bank Arena, only surpassed by the Sydney Kings-Canberra Cannons NBL battle back in 1999.
There were more watching than the Sydney Olympics Gold Medal match in 2000 and they saw the USA bounce back from their shock loss to the Australian Boomers at Marvel Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Canada had done well on this trip to date despite having just the one current NBA player in their squad having split the series in Perth with the Boomers and beating New Zealand in two games in Sydney, so the Americans were never going to have it all their way.
But in the end the USA finalised their preparations for the World Cup with the bounce back 16-point victory with Gregg Popovich and assistant Steve Kerr looking lock away their preferred rotations to attempt to win gold in China.
USA’s size and athleticism again helped them outrebound Canada by 18 but neither team shot well with the United States going 32/73 at 43 per cent from the field and 2/14 at 14 per cent from deep. Canada shot 25/76 at 32 per cent from the floor and 6/23 at 26 from three.
But the USA did score 60 points in the paint to 30 and while Canada did well to force 19 turnovers, they just couldn’t shoot well enough to get close on the night.
As it turned out, Jaylen Brown made the most noise for Team USA with 19 points and three rebounds in just 19 minutes of court time while shooting 8/11 from the field.
Kemba Walker had another 12 points and five rebounds for the USA while Donovan Mitchell finished with 12 points and four assists, and Myles Turner 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Harrison Barnes also produced nine points and three rebounds, Derrick White six points and two steals, and Jayson Tatum six points and four boards despite shooting 2/11.
Kyle Wiltjer was again a shining light for Canada top-scoring with 21 points while shooting 8/13 from the field, 2/5 from deep and 3/3 from the charity stripe.
Khem Birch added 13 points and six rebounds for Canada with Kevin Pangos contributing seven points, two assists and two steals, Melvin Ejim five points, five rebounds and three steals, and Aaron Best five points and four boards.
Neither team shot well early, but USA did lead 8-2 after the first five minutes with Canada’s Khem Birch seeing two sitters manage to roll out. Melvin Ejim eventually hit from three for Canada after they missed one of their first 12 shots.
The USA still managed to lead 20-9 following a scrappy opening period but Canada was getting back into the contest only down seven with four minutes to go in the half after an and-one play from Owen Klassen.
It was then a five-point ball game with under two minutes remaining before the USA ended the half with an and-one from Jaylen Brown, a layup from Donovan Mitchell, another from Kemba Walker who then added a pair of free-throws.
Mitchell closed the half with a spectacular slam and the USA were up 46-31 at the break.
The USA were still up 17 late in the third quarter when Brooke Lopez hit the floor for the first time and that’s when the crowd in Sydney adopted a new favourite son. They let out a big sigh when he missed a hook shot but he did score just before three quarter-time with the USA up 64-47.
Lopez came in and out of the game a couple of times again in the fourth quarter and with the USA on top leading by as much as 24, he became a surprise attraction with his team ending up winning 84-68.
Even Popovich wasn’t quite sure what to make of all the Lopez love.
“What the hell was that all about? I don’t understand but we screwed with it for a while and we were trying to keep our focus because we don’t want to make anything silly,” Popovich said.
“But it got so ridiculous that we finally succumbed to the crowd. But I have no idea where it came from.”
WORLD CUP EXHIBITION GAME
USA BASKETBALL 84 (Jaylen Brown 19, Kemba Walker 12, Donovan Mitchell 12)
CANADA BASKETBALL 68 (Kyle Wiltjer 21, Khem Birch 13, Kevin Pangos 7)