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Exhibition Play Has Not Been Pretty For Team USA, Jayson Tatum

BOSTON (CBS) -- Exhibition games are more about what you see from a team than the end results. But both their play on the floor and the final scores have been pretty abysmal for the U.S. Men's National Team over its first two games, as it prepares for meaningful basketball in Tokyo.

If Sunday's 90-87 loss to Nigeria was a wake-up call, Team USA didn't get it. The squad dropped its second straight exhibition game on Monday night, this time falling to Australia 91-83. It was so bad that the Americans were booed off the floor in Las Vegas.

That's not the reception a super squad should be receiving on its home soil, but that's what they get for a terrible start to the team's five-game exhibition slate before heading to the Olympics. Team USA clearly needs to do some jelling before heading off to Tokyo, and they're running out of time to do so.

It's also not the best way to rinse out that bad taste from a fifth-place finish at the World Cup in China two years ago. Going back to those games, the U.S. is just 1-4 in its last five contests where NBA players squared off against international competition.


The U.S. looked better to start Monday's tilt, but then let a 10-point second-half lead slip away against the Aussies. They went the final 4:34 of the game without a field goal. Celtics star Jayson Tatum gave Team USA an 82-80 lead on a layup for the squad's final bucket of the game, as Australia outscored them 11-1 the rest of the way en route to its upset victory. Patty Mills was his usual dominant self on the international stage for Australia, scoring 10 of his 22 points in the final six minutes.

Tatum came off the bench for Gregg Popovich, who is looking for ways to kickstart the team before departing for Tokyo. The C's forward could be a formidable weapon on Team USA's second unit, but he struggled Monday, going just 4-for-12 from the floor for eight points. Tatum was 4-for-7 against Nigeria for 15 points to go with seven rebounds. We'll see if he remains on the bench, or if Pop reinserts him in the starting lineup again as he continues to search for a winning formula.

We won't have to wait long to see how it plays out, either, as Team USA will play Argentina on Tuesday night. At least these games don't count, but the US is going to have to jell quick, or any hopes of being the next Dream Team will quickly devolve into a nightmare.

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