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Ought to the U.S. ladies’s basketball group be fearful concerning the Tokyo Olympics?

LAS VEGAS — Coach Daybreak Staley spoke calmly after the U.S. ladies’s basketball group misplaced 70-67 to Australia on Friday, however main scorer and rebounder Breanna Stewart admitted she was bugged by the defeat.

After their second consecutive exhibition loss — the primary time that has occurred to the U.S. ladies’s nationwide group since 2011 — folks would possibly surprise if there’s cause to fret concerning the six-time defending Olympic champions, who’re lower than two weeks from their opener on July 27 on the Tokyo Video games.

“A few of the issues that we did on the market have been remarkably higher than what it was on Wednesday,” Staley stated of Crew USA’s 93-85 loss to Crew WNBA within the All-Star Recreation, which was additionally performed at Michelob Extremely Area at Mandalay Bay.

However Seattle Storm ahead Stewart, who had 17 factors and 12 rebounds Friday, was blunt.

“Anytime I am representing USA, there’s a normal. And the usual is profitable,” stated Stewart, who shall be going to her second Olympics. “So we have not gotten to that time but, and it’s irritating. However it’s part of the sport, part of the method.”

There may be not a lot time for the method to play out. America faces Nigeria on Sunday in one other exhibition, then leaves for Japan.

“After we get to the Olympics, that is when it is actually, actually crunch time,” Stewart stated. “We do should put this on the quick observe.”

This is a have a look at probably the most urgent considerations for the U.S. ladies.

What’s up with the offense?

A bunch of one of the best gamers from the top-rated nation in ladies’s hoops scored solely 67 factors towards an Australian group that did not even have Liz Cambage. The Australian heart and two-time Olympian pulled out of the Tokyo Video games competitors on Thursday, citing psychological well being points after incidents right here in Las Vegas, the place she performs for the Aces. Cambage was concerned in a bodily altercation and verbal alternate throughout a closed scrimmage sport towards Nigeria earlier this week, sources advised ESPN’s Olgun Uluc.

The People have eight of the highest 11 scorers within the WNBA to date this season, led by the Washington Mystics’ Tina Charles, who’s averaging a league-best 26.3 PPG. Facilities Sylvia Fowles (60.8%) of the Minnesota Lynx and Brittney Griner (57.6%) of the Phoenix Mercury are 1-2 in subject purpose share within the WNBA. Crew USA has the WNBA’s all-time assists chief in Sue Chook. This group needs to be primed to place up factors.

But Friday, the U.S. ladies shot 37.3% from the sphere and 11.1% (2 of 18) from 3-point vary, with each treys coming from Stewart and none from a guard. Crew USA had 18 turnovers, together with an uncharacteristic six from Chook to offset her six assists.

“Australia made it laborious for us to make entry passes, and so they made us go to a distinct possibility,” Staley stated. “At occasions, we bought fairly good ball motion, and at occasions we bought a bit of stagnant. I believe that’s simply from everyone enjoying their very own type of play, what they do for his or her respective (WNBA) groups.

“If you happen to transfer the ball fast sufficient, I believe you’ll be able to shift the protection a bit of bit and our taking pictures share will enhance with each reversal that we get.”

The People additionally did not get a lot in transition, scoring simply three fast-break factors.

“I believe we will get down the ground a bit of bit and play faster,” Staley stated. “I believe we’re only a step behind as a result of we try to determine one another out.”

What’s up with the protection?

Crew USA made 9 extra free throws than Australia and received the rebounding battle 41-28. The People additionally took eight extra pictures from the sphere than the Aussies. However together with their struggles on offense, they weren’t defensively sharp.

Australia shot 45.8% from the sphere and went 10 of 26 from 3-point vary. The U.S. ladies led 41-28 at halftime, however they have been outscored 42-26 within the second half, with Australia doing a greater job of getting the ball inside and changing.

Seattle ahead Ezi Magbegor, who’s in her second WNBA season, was 6 of seven from the sphere for a team-high 17 factors for Australia. New York Liberty ahead Rebecca Allen had 11 factors. Allen has began simply six WNBA video games this season and Magbegor, two. The U.S. entrance line has 4 former WNBA MVPs — Charles, Fowles, Stewart and A’ja Wilson — and Fowles and Griner mix for 5 WNBA Defensive Participant of the 12 months awards.

Within the All-Star Recreation loss, Crew USA struggled notably with guarding the perimeter, as Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale had 26 factors in incomes MVP honors, and Atlanta Dream guard Courtney Williams scored 15. Crew WNBA outrebounded Crew USA 41-37, led by the Connecticut Solar’s Jonquel Jones with 14.

Stewart stated whereas the People must play higher group protection, additionally they should step up individually.

“The guard-your-yard mentality, guard your man,” Stewart stated. “Ensure they don’t seem to be in a position to get something simple. I believe we will all do higher in that space.”

How quickly will the rotations stabilize?

America has used the identical beginning 5 for each video games: forwards Stewart and Wilson, heart Griner and guards Chook and Jewell Loyd. Olympic first-timer Wilson has performed the least mixed minutes of the starters in these two exhibitions; she was on court docket simply over 12 minutes Friday, however made all 5 of her pictures from the sphere.

Fowles, who’s going to her fourth Olympics, performed simply lower than 10 minutes Friday, whereas Griner, who will seem in her second Summer season Video games, performed 14:14. Olympic first-timer Napheesa Collier of Minnesota did not play in any respect within the first half however bought 15:31 minutes within the second.

Getting the suitable rotations when you’ve gotten a lot expertise is at all times one thing Crew USA has to work on, and that was apparent Friday.

“Any individual’s not going to play as many minutes as one would love,” stated Staley, who did not develop on what the teaching workers has discovered from the substitution patterns up to now.

How a lot is Diana Taurasi missed?

Like Chook, Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi is headed to her fifth Olympics. Nevertheless, Taurasi has been coping with a hip damage and hasn’t performed since July 3. She stated her purpose is to be prepared for the video games in Tokyo, and her absence in these final two video games has been noticeable. The U.S. ladies made a mixed 9 3-pointers Wednesday and Friday, with 4 of these coming from Stewart. Taurasi is the league’s all-time chief in factors (9,040) and 3-pointers (1,179). Staley stated 3-point taking pictures is an space the People should enhance.

“It is powerful lacking Diana, as a result of Diana not solely scores properly, however she’s an incredible passer,” Staley stated. “And she’s going to assist with the circulate of our offense. We add an skilled participant who could make sound and nice basketball selections.”

Has the U.S. ladies’s confidence taken a success?

The People’ swagger is perhaps dented only a bit with these two losses. The Australians tried to downplay Friday’s victory because it was an exhibition, but it surely was an enormous deal. The Aussies regarded extra cohesive than the U.S. ladies Friday.

Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello has been with the Opals program a very long time, as each a participant (for 17 years) and now as head coach, and this was her first win towards the USA.

“We all know they are going to be a greater group, and we all know we is usually a higher group,” Brondello stated. “This was our first actual sport collectively in such a very long time. [But] now we have nice camaraderie and nice chemistry.”

Since 1995-96 when the U.S. ladies began their present streak of Olympic gold, the nationwide group is 199-18 in exhibition play, counting this week’s two losses.

That is the primary time since losses to Ros Casares Valencia and USK Prague throughout a European tour in 2011 that the U.S. nationwide group has misplaced consecutive exhibitions. However that was a 12 months with no main event — that is the U.S. Olympic group with the Summer season Video games quickly to begin.

“I believe we have discovered our ball-screen protection a bit of bit,” Stewart stated. “And I believe the large factor is simply speaking. So then if we do have lapses the place we’re not precisely certain what we’ll do, we’re in a position to work by way of it shortly on the court docket.

“Nearly all of the time, we weren’t on the identical web page. That is simply gonna include extra time collectively. We’re right here for one cause, and one cause solely, and that is to win the gold medal. We have to do all the things we will to be in that head house.”

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