It's the human and fun side of our sports heroes

Walker leads US to easy win over Australia in World Cup warm-up


Agence France-Presse

Boston guard Kemba Walker dazzled with 23 points as the United States ramped up preparations for the defence of their World Cup crown with an impressive 102-86 victory over Australia in a warm-up game Thursday.

Myles Turner added 15 points with 14 rebounds while Donovan Mitchell scored 13 with three assists to build on their recent victory over world number two Spain en-route to China for the tournament that tips off on August 31.

Chris Goulding led Australia with 19 points off the bench, along with San Antonio Spurs’ Patty Mills, who had two rebounds and three assists in front of more than 50,000 fans at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium.

“I’m one of the leaders of this team so I just try to do my best for my teammates,” said Walker, who was appointed captain for the game.

“I’m super happy to be here. I want to inspire the young kids coming up.”

The five-time world champions, ranked number one in the world by international governing body FIBA, started on a 6-0 run before Mills got Australia on the board, with the Americans ending the first quarter 22-20 in front.

They raced to an 11 point advantage before Goulding drained back-to-back threes and Mills hit from deep just before the buzzer to trim the margin to just one point, 44-43, at the half-way mark.

But Team USA then went on a 10-0 spree, reeling off a trio of three-pointers, to assert their authority, finishing three-quarter time comfortably ahead 76-61 before closing it out.

“We are looking to build and grow,” said Australia’s Mills. “The World Cup is where we want to peak and this was a good hit out for us.”

Coach Gregg Popovich’s USA squad — which needs to be trimmed to 12 from the current 13 — head to the World Cup as favourites despite missing a host of top NBA stars.

LeBron James, James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard all opted out, while others such as Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker are injured, leaving a depleted, but still talented, line-up who have not had much match time together.

While Australia, widely seen as a medal contender, boasts a handful of NBA stars, including Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles and Mills, they too have had to deal with withdrawals.

Philadelphia 76s’ Jonah Bolden pulled out this week, joining Ben Simmons and Thon Maker (NBA commitments), Ryan Broekhoff (birth of his child) and Dante Exum (injury) as no-shows .

The two teams play each other again in Melbourne on Saturday.