SYDNEY — Order restored. After losing for the first time in nearly 13 years two days earlier, the United States rebounded to outclass Canada 84-68 in a pre-World Cup exhibition basketball game Monday.
At the same arena where the Americans won Olympic gold at the Sydney 2000 Games the U.S. never trailed, leading 20-9 after the first quarter and 46-31 at halftime.
On Saturday, Australia stunned the U.S. 98-94 before a crowd of more than 52,000 in Melbourne, a result that ended the Americans’ 78-game winning streak.
The U.S. is missing top NBA players such as LeBron James, James Harden, Paul George and Stephen Curry. It was a dour scoring game after the exciting Saturday result in Melbourne, with both teams committing numerous turnovers Monday.
Jaylen Brown had 19 points to lead the Americans, who out-rebounded Canada 55-37. Donovan Mitchell added 12 points and four assists; Kemba Walker scored 12 points and Myles Turner finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
“We have to speed up that learning curve,” Brown said of the Americans with less than a week to go before the World Cup starts. “We have a lot of room for growth. It’s going to be good when it comes together, the sky is the limit for this group.”
Kyle Wiltjer had 21 points for Canada, while Orlando Magic forward Khem Birch – Canada’s lone NBA player in the game – had 13 points and six rebounds.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve enjoyed our time here,” Wiltjer said. “Let’s not forget these are practice games.”
Overall, the Canadians shot just 35% from the field and 6-for-23 (26%) from three-point range.
Andrew Nembhard, who injured his knee last week, and Kaza Kajami-Keane (ankle) both returned for Canada, while Brady Heslip, a late arrival for the Canadians, played his first game in Australia.
The last time the Americans – counting major international tournaments and exhibitions with NBA players on the floor – lost a game was the semifinals of the 2006 world championships. The American program has won gold in every competition since, including three straight in the Olympics and two consecutive World Cup titles.
Canada has also been hit hard by missing NBA players, with Miami Heat’s Kelly Olynyk the latest big-name player to pull out after sustaining a knee injury.
Canada: It was the third head-to-head meeting between Canada coach Nick Nurse and U.S. coach Gregg Popovich. They went 1-1 against each other in NBA play last season, Nurse’s Toronto Raptors losing in San Antonio on Jan. 3 but beating Popovich’s Spurs in Canada on Feb. 22. Canada finished 4-3 in its pre-World Cup exhibitions, starting with a split of a two-game series with Nigeria before five games in Australia.
USA: The Americans finished their four-game World Cup warm-up tour 3-1 after beating Spain and splitting two games with Australia. The U.S. is planning to stay in Sydney until mid-week, then arrive in Shanghai early Thursday.
Nurse is getting the full tour of the other side of the world this year. The Canadians have been in Australia for a week or so, and now head to China for the World Cup. Then, Nurse will be in Japan when the world champion Raptors (albeit now without NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard) play preseason games against Houston on Oct. 8 and Oct. 10.
Popovich was disappointed that Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma‘s left ankle injury meant he wouldn’t be able to compete in the World Cup. The Americans sent Kuzma home Saturday with the injury, a move that finalized the 12-man U.S. roster. They were in Australia with 13 finalists for 12 World Cup spots. “It’s a huge disappointment, because he was a young, energetic guy who was really learning and could play a lot of positions for us,” Popovich said. “Hopefully he’ll heal quickly.”
Canada: Opens World Cup play Sept. 1 vs. Australia in Dongguan, China.
USA: Opens World Cup play Sept. 1 vs. Czech Republic in Shanghai.