Walker leads US over Australia

Kemba Walker scored 23 points and Myles Turner added 15 to give Team USA a 102-86 win over Australia yesterday in a World Cup warm-up game.

The attendance at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, which normally hosts soccer, cricket and Australian rules football, was 51,218, billed as the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game in Australia. The stadium was transformed into a make-shift basketball arena for two games against the Americans before the World Cup starts later this month in China.

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 Donovan Mitchell, to go up 57-45.

“The way we bounced back in the second half shows the character of this team,” Mitchell said. “We played in front of 55,000 people — there’s going to be nerves, guys are going to be geeked up and ready to go. But once we settled down and started playing our basketball we were in good shape.”

Patty Mills and Chris Goulding scored 19 points each for Australia.

Walker was one the keys for the second-half resurgence of the Americans, scoring 21 of his 23 points after halftime.

“I’m one of the leaders of this team, so it’s important for me to set that tone,” the Boston Celtics guard said.

“I’m super happy to be here. I want to inspire the young kids coming up,” Walker, who was appointed captain for the game, added.

The roof of Marvel Stadium was closed for the game and a raised basketball court was dropped in the middle of the field surrounded by hundreds of white chairs, more than 20 rows deep, for fans who paid for floor seating.

“Everyone came out tonight,” Mills said. “Fans being able to show their full support, it’s really cool, really good to see and hopefully we keep this up for years to come.”

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. Neither is on the team.

Australia was also without its biggest star, Ben Simmons, who has opted not to play in the World Cup. Still, the Boomers starting lineup included four National Basketball Association players: Mills, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova.

The crowd produced only a smattering of applause for American baskets. However, cheers erupted when the Boomers cut down the United States lead before halftime on back-to-back 3-pointers by Goulding and six straight points by Mills.

The win was the 78th in a row in major international exhibitions and competition for the US national team, a streak that started with the bronze medal game of the 2006 world championships. It encompasses gold-medal runs at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, the Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016, and the FIBA Americas tournament in 2007.

It also made the US 2-0 under coach Gregg Popovich, after last weekend’s exhibition win in California over Spain.

The two teams play each other again in Melbourne tomorrow.


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