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Team USA falls again in pre-Olympic matchup, this time 91-83 to Australia

USA Basketball has dropped back-to-back games for just the third time since NBA players began wearing the red, white and blue in 1992.

LAS VEGAS — These games don’t count. Right now, that is the only saving grace for USA Basketball.

And for quite probably the first time in 29 years of NBA players suiting up for the national team, they heard boos when a game ended — on home soil, no less.

Patty Mills scored 22 points and Australia held the U.S. without a field goal for the final 4:34 on the way to beating the Americans 91-83 on Monday night, dropping the three-time defending Olympic gold medalists to 0-2 in their five-game slate of exhibitions leading up to the Tokyo Games.

Joe Ingles scored 17 points, Matisse Thybulle scored 12 and Chris Goulding had 11 for Australia.

Damian Lillard led the U.S. with 22 points, while Kevin Durant scored 17 and Bradley Beal finished with 12. But the Americans wasted a 10-point second-half lead, and have dropped back-to-back games for just the third time since NBA players began wearing the red, white and blue in 1992.

The other instances: two straight in the 2002 FIBA World Championship and two straight in the 2019 Basketball World Cup. The U.S. finished sixth in the first tournament, seventh in the other. And while these are glorified scrimmages, this much is already certain — a medal seems far from a lock for the U.S.

Jayson Tatum’s layup with 4:35 left put the Americans up 82-80. Australia scoured the U.S. 11-1 the rest of the way, and Mills — who plays for U.S. coach Gregg Popovich in San Antonio — did most of the damage for the Boomers down the stretch.

Favored by 16.5 points before the game, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Americans looked the part for much of the first half. A 20-6 run — capped by five points from Select Team call-up Keldon Johnson — put the U.S. up by eight late in the opening quarter, and Lillard closed out his 16-point first half with a 3-pointer 31.7 seconds before intermission that gave the Americans a 46-35 lead.

The halftime lead was nine, the same lead that the U.S. had early in the third quarter against Nigeria before letting it slip away.

And the same thing happened in this one.

The third-quarter lead for the U.S. was as big as 10 and was 58-50 when Lillard made a 3-pointer midway through the period. But Australia closed the quarter on a 19-6 run, Goulding hit a 3-pointer as time expired and Australia took a 69-64 lead into the final 10 minutes.

TIP-INS

Australia: The Boomers, according to USA Basketball’s archives, are now 2-28 all-time against the Americans in senior men’s national competition. The other Australian win came in a pre-World Cup exhibition in 2019.

USA: The Americans changed the starting lineup, with Jerami Grant in for Jayson Tatum and Draymond Green in for Bam Adebayo. … The U.S. was outrebounded 32-25.

LOVE OUT

Kevin Love, who played only three minutes in Saturday’s loss to Nigeria, was the only Olympic-teamer who didn’t get into the game for the U.S. The Americans used 10 players; the eight other Olympians in Las Vegas, plus Select Team promotees Johnson and Darius Garland. The Olympic-bound trio of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker remain at the NBA Finals.

BAYNES HURT

Australia center Aron Baynes limped off 3:49 into the game after a collision with Beal. Baynes was defending as Beal drove at him, and Baynes grabbed at his right knee following the contact. He went to the locker room, then returned to the Boomers’ bench later in the first half but did not return.

UP NEXT

Australia: Faces Nigeria on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

USA: Faces Argentina on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

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‘Shame that fight won't happen’: Fans dream of fantasy Khabib-Usman match-up as Nigerian takes step towards GOAT status

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Sport News

The unexpected retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov may have robbed fight fans of a monumental showdown between the undefeated Russian and Kamaru Usman, who took another step towards welterweight GOAT status at UFC 261.

Usman has now won 14 straight fights in the talent-rich welterweight fold, one more than Nurmagomedov claimed in his entire UFC career – and after ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ enhanced his glowing reputation even further with his second round knockout of Jorge Masvidal in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday night, some fans have been left wondering what might have transpired had Khabib not pursued his retirement papers.

Also on rt.com Kamaru Usman OBLITERATES Jorge Masvidal with massive KO in welterweight title clash at UFC 261 (VIDEO)

Nurmagomedov first announced that he was stepping away from the cage following last year’s title defence against Justin Gaethje, and resisted Dana White’s unceasing campaign designed to tempt the then-UFC lightweight champion to reverse his decision. 

A glimmer of hope for White, as well as Nurmagomedov’s extended fanbase, came when rumors once again raised their head of a potential fight with fellow UFC icon Georges St-Pierre – but those now appear dead in the water. 

However, with Usman now confirmed to be the greatest welterweight fighter in the sport – and GSP’s true successor at 170lbs – some fans have been left wondering what might have been.

Makes me laugh the way [Khabib] has been retired for 6+ months, but still trends when the UFC is on,” wrote one fan on social media. “Remember that Usman once said: ‘I would never fight Khabib, that’s my brother. It’s just a mutual respect’. Let Khabib be and just enjoy the new P4P king!

“Usman clearly the best in the world right now while Khabib is the undisputed GOAT. Shame that fight won’t happen,” added another.

ESPN’s UFC insider Ariel Helwani also co-signed Usman’s claims that he is the greatest pound-for-pound (active) fighter on the planet.

Usman says he’s the best P4P fighter on the planet,” wrote Helwani. “With Khabib retired, I think you can make a very, very strong case for that argument.”

While Nurmagomedov’s retirement appears set in stone, he had long signalled an interest in challenging himself against St-Pierre – the greatest fighter in welterweight history. 

Also on rt.com ‘How dare you boo her’: UFC Florida crowd slammed for jeering Chinese ex-champ Zhang Weili

However, with Usman now occupying the role of the clear, standout 170lbs competitor in the world one wonders if Khabib may have been a little premature the declaration central to his retirement: there were no challenges left which truly interested him.

Both Usman and Khabib are managed by Dominance MMA head Ali Abdelaziz too – the man who was central to arranging a fight between Khabib and another of his clients, Gaethje, last year.

And one wonders if this might be enough evidence for White to restart his campaign of persuasion. 

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Prepare for violence: UFC buzzsaws Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler ‘set to meet in top lightweight contender matchup’

Fight fans are giddy at the prospect of a high-stakes showdown between elite UFC lightweights Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler amid rumors that the two title contenders are set to meet in what should be a firework-filled bout.

According to a report from ESPN’s UFC insider Ariel Helwani, matchmakers are attempting to agree terms with both fighters ahead of a potential matchup later this year. As of yet, there is no indication of a potential date or location. 
Also on rt.com ‘New king in town’: Michael Chandler DESTROYS Dan Hooker inside one round at UFC 257, calls out Khabib
The potential fight appears to be the next step in UFC president Dana White’s plan to identify a top lightweight contender, perhaps with the intention of persuading the exiled Khabib Nurmagomedov to return to the cage for one more fight after the Russian champion announced his surprise retirement in the cage following a win against Gaethje in Abu Dhabi last October. 

Speaking to UK broadcaster BT Sport in advance of last weekend’s event in Las Vegas, White said that the 155lbs division has no true top contender at the moment – and that whoever rises to the top throughout the next battery of fights will be considered to be at the summit of the division.

Nobody’s in line like they should be next,” White said. “[Rankings] 1-9, all those guys are badass and could win on any given day… You could literally put all the names in a hat and pull ‘em out and match ‘em up and every one of those fights are awesome. This isn’t really rocket science.

Khabib is undoubtedly the best in the world, by a long shot. He’s the champ. The rest of these guys are going to have to fight it out. It doesn’t matter.”

Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor are set to fight for a third time this summer in a fight which will likely elevate the winner’s championship hopes, while the rest of the lightweight gentry – Tony Ferguson, Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev included – will also be hoping to cement their candidacy for a world title shot. 

First up, though, seems to be Chandler and Gaethje in what will be a fascinating clash between two fighters who harness similar styles in the octagon – and it certainly has MMA fans licking their lips with the word “violence” repeatedly attributed towards the potential fight on social media.

Another wrote that they “will not miss that war” between “two incredible fighters“.

Former Bellator champion Chandler announced his arrival in the upper echelon of the UFC’s lightweight fold in January when he defeated the gritty Dan Hooker by first-round knockout – while Gaethje, save for an insipid performance against Nurmagomedov last year, has otherwise been in imperious form lately. 

In a certain light, all of this speaks to the influence that Khabib retains over the rest of the UFC’s lightweight field. Despite being retired for six months now, Dana White hasn’t relented in his campaign to persuade his top-draw attraction to return to action and this current spate of lightweight bookings appears, in some sense, to be a riposte to Khabib’s request that White and the UFC “show [him] something spectacular“.

Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler is certainly a good place to start. 
Also on rt.com ‘New king in town’: Michael Chandler DESTROYS Dan Hooker inside one round at UFC 257, calls out Khabib

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