Walker, Turner lead US over Australia
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):
With his team playing on a raised basketball court in a stadium normally used for football and cricket, US coach Gregg Popovich said he felt like he was on a movie set.
"I kept looking behind me because I knew I was going to fall off the stage," he said.
But once the game started, Popovich thought it all seemed normal. And if it had been a movie, Popovich surely would have liked the ending.
Kemba Walker scored 23 points, Myles Turner added 15 points and 14 rebounds, and the US topped Australia 102-86 yesterday before a crowd of 51,218 -- billed as the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game in Australia.
"We have guys that are just starting to play with each other," said US guard Donovan Mitchell, who had 13 points. "We got off to a little bit of a rough start in the first half, but the third quarter, we really picked it up defensively."
Patty Mills and Chris Goulding scored 19 points each for Australia, which stayed with the Americans for about two and a half quarters before seeing chances slip away at Marvel Stadium -- transformed into a make-shift basketball arena for two games against the Americans, tune-ups for both sides before the World Cup starts next week in China.
"It was an awesome opportunity," Mills said. "I think basketball in this country has been waiting for something like this."
After Australia briefly took the lead at 45-44 early in the second half, the Americans scored 13 unanswered points, including three straight 3-pointers by Turner, Harrison Barnes and Mitchell, to go up 57-45.
Walker was one of the keys for the second-half resurgence for the Americans, scoring 21 of his 23 points after half-time.
"I'm one of the leaders of this team, so it's important for me to set that tone," the Celtics guard said.
The roof of Marvel Stadium was closed and the court was placed in the middle of the field surrounded by hundreds of white chairs, more than 20 rows deep, for fans who paid for floor seating.
Despite the huge crowd, Australian media reported that some fans were issued refunds because they bought tickets based on promotional materials depicting Stephen Curry and LeBron James -- who were part of the US player pool when the deal was struck last year to play these games. Neither Curry nor James is on the US roster for the World Cup.