The United States men's basketball team is playing an exhibition schedule for a reason. Despite boasting a roster full of stars, those stars haven't played much together as they enter the Tokyo Olympics.
Meanwhile, as their losses to Nigeria and Australia further prove, the rest of the world has continued to catch up as the sport has expanded in popularity across the globe.
Their third game, though, was better in many areas. Team USA took out Argentina by 28 points on Tuesday night, beating them so handily they emptied the bench at the end, which gave fans a chance to Google guys on their Select team like Josh Magette and John Jenkins. The latter, of course, played briefly for the Wizards back in 2019.
Against Argentina, the U.S. broke out on offense with all five players in their starting lineup reaching double-figures. On defense, they held Argentina to 9-for-29 (31.0%) from three-point range after allowing 20 threes against Nigeria and Australia to go 10-for-24 (41.7%).
Bradley Beal had a game-high 17 points and shot 5-of-8 in the win over Argentina. He was also part of the perimeter defense that has shown steady improvement game-to-game.
"Our biggest thing is we have to realize it's not the NBA. Coach [Gregg Popovich] keeps re-emphasizing that every single day. It's way more physical, guys are smarter," Beal said.
"These guys have been playing together for five, 10-plus years. So, they have the experience and the chemistry and we're trying to develop that in a very short period of time. Sense of urgency is what we're kind of preaching, but at the same time every single day we have to get better. That's how we're taking it."
Beal went into details separately about both the offense and the defense. Team USA shot 51.4% from the field against Argentina and 44.8% (13-for-29) from deep. They had 27 assists on 37 made field goals in 40 minutes of play. They also got to the free throw line 26 times and made 21 of them, for 80.8%
"It was fluid, but that just comes from us getting stops for one and getting out in transition, which is something we love to do," Beal said. "We want to use our athletic abilities and talents and drive-and-kick for each other. When we do that, we move the ball two or three times across the floor, it's able to give us easier shots, open shots, driving lanes. It's just making the game simpler. We realize everybody's talented, but we've all gotta sacrifice for the benefit of the team and everybody's doing it."
Defensively, the United States found more success on the three-point line against Argentina but also held them to 38.4% shooting overall, forced 13 turnovers and limited three of their starters to a combined 12 points.
Officiating in the international game allows for more contact and Team USA seemed to adjust to that on Tuesday by guarding Argentina's players more closely and with more active hands.
"Obviously, we can be a little bit more physical, but they're still cognizant of what's a foul and what's not a foul," Beal said. "We were just more aggressive in our pickup points on the three-point line. We made sure both of our feet were above and then all of our switches were up and aggressive vs. our last couple of games where we were very lazy, pointing out instead of coming together in contact and switching the right way. We were a lot better today - granted we still had some slip-ups and still had some miscommunications."
The United States is the most talented team entering the Olympic field, but talent alone won't win them the gold. It will take strategy and smarts as Beal explained.