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Friday, September 24, 2021

Bradley Beal and Team USA trending upward as exhibition play continues

The USA’s roster is overflowing with NBA talent, and former Gator Bradley Beal is among the best gearing up for a medal run in Japan.

United States' Bradley Beal dunks against Australia during an exhibition basketball game Monday, July 12, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
United States' Bradley Beal dunks against Australia during an exhibition basketball game Monday, July 12, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The warm up for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games is well underway for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. Through three exhibition games at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, the performances have varied from sluggish to dominant. 

Former Florida Gator and current Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal started all three outings in his national team debut for the USA, averaging 29 minutes per contest.

ABeal went 1-7 from the field, scoring only two points in the U.S.’s shocking loss to Nigeria on July 10. The St. Louis, Missouri, native added four boards, two assists and a block to his stat line.  Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum led the U.S., scoring 17 and 15 respectively, but Nigeria got the best of Team USA behind 21 points from Gabe Nnamdi Vincentand. 

The USA entered a matchup with Australia, who the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) ranked third in the world, two days later.  

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damin Lillard scored 22, including six 3-pointers, but it wasn’t enough. Beal improved upon his opening performance with 12 points, his only two misses coming from behind the arch. Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs and Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz combined for 39 of Australia's 91 points en route to a second straight loss for the States, proving that a run to Olympic gold is not going to be an easy task. 

The Americans took a huge step in the right direction Monday evening against Argentina, as Beal’s 17 points, six rebounds and three assists led them to a 108-80 victory. 

The scoring opened with a Beal alley-oop to Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo just seconds after the opening tip. Durant matched Beal’s 17 points and all five of the USA’s starters had double-digit scoring efforts. 

“It’s more physical,” said Beal after his third international game. “It’s not the NBA, and coach Pop (Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich) keeps reemphasizing that to us every single day.” 

The former Florida guard, who made first-team All SEC in 2012, his only year with the Gators, is now solidifying himself as one of the centerpieces of the USA men’s team. 

That status is in jeopardy for the time being, however. The Athletic reported Beal was placed into health and safety protocols Wednesday. Updates on his status are expected before the USA continues exhibition play Friday with another matchup against Australia. 

The USA will then battle Spain on July 18 for one final tune-up before leaving Las Vegas for Japan. 

Team USA will gain the likes of Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday once the NBA Finals matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks concludes in the upcoming week. 

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The opening game for the USA in Japan will be against reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and France on July 25. 

Contact Joseph Henry at jhenry@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424.

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