Becky Hammon was rewarded for leaving Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs as she led the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA title on Sunday.

Hammon was Popovich's long-time assistant before being hired by the Aces last year, having been passed over for senior NBA roles.

But the six-time WNBA All-Star responded by delivering the Aces their first championship courtesy of a 3-1 Finals win over the Connecticut Sun.

In doing so, Hammon became the first first-time head coach to win the WNBA title since the league's debut season in 1997.

This success came as no surprise to Popovich, however, who said: "We are all thrilled for coach Hammon.

"Winning a championship is a remarkable achievement for a first-time head coach in her first year with a team, yet I'm not at all surprised by her success.

"Becky has proven over and over that she has a unique understanding and passion for the game of basketball.

"Congratulations to Becky, her players and the entire Aces organisation. They played the right way the entire season and were a true joy to watch."

Aces owner Mark Davis added: "She's been absolutely unbelievable, and I guess this legitimises the way we went after her."

But Hammon sought to direct the praise back onto her players, telling ESPN: "Just getting to know them on a day-to-day basis, who they were as people, they're unbelievable on the court, but they're unbelievable humans, first and foremost.

"They care about each other, they invest into each other. It's been an absolute honour to be their coach.

"I saw excellence and I wanted to be a part of it. I'm just super thankful – one through 12, I love you all. It's been so much fun, so much fun."

The outstanding coaching career of Gregg Popovich reached new heights with the San Antonio Spurs' victory over the Utah Jazz.

San Antonio's 104-102 triumph on Friday marked career win number 1,336 for Popovich, taking him past Don Nelson for the most by a coach in NBA history.

It is yet another remarkable achievement by one of the finest coaches to ever grace the NBA sideline.

In celebration of Popovich's latest accomplishment, here Stats Perform looks at five of the greatest feats of his career.

The first title

It might not have been the hardest Finals success of Popovich's career, but the first title in franchise history is always a memorable one, and he delivered that for the Spurs in 1999.

San Antonio earned the one seed in the Western Conference and the Spurs subsequently blitzed their way through the playoffs, losing only one game en route to the Finals.

And the fairytale New York Knicks, who had reached the Finals as the eighth seed in the East, proved no match for David Robinson, Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

Indeed, without the injured Patrick Ewing, the Knicks were overpowered and Avery Johnson's game-winning shot with 47 seconds left in Game 5 clinched a 4-1 series triumph for the Spurs, with Popovich able to celebrate his first title at the Mecca of basketball.

Kawhi holds off LeBron

Having tasted defeat to the Miami Heat in seven games a year earlier, Popovich and the Spurs pulled off the most impressive of their five NBA title wins in 2014 by getting revenge on Erik Spoelstra's star-studded team.

In what proved to be the final series of LeBron James' career with the Heat, the superior roster depth of the Spurs proved the difference against Miami's big three as they prevailed 4-1 over LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Co.

Having split the first two games in San Antonio, the Spurs swept their two games in South Florida and then wrapped things up as Kawhi Leonard's double-double inspired a 104-87 win in Game 5.

In large part for his defensive effort against James, Leonard was named Finals MVP. His field goal percentage of 61.2 was the highest by a Finals MVP until Giannis Antetokoumpo surpassed it in 2021 with 61.8 per cent.

Those 18 consecutive 50-win seasons

As his record-setting number of wins indicates, consistent success has defined Popovich's career with the Spurs, who comfortably hold the NBA record for most successive 50-win seasons.

From 1999-2000 to 2016-17, the Spurs won at least 50 games for 18 consecutive campaigns, the final year in that run among one of the most impressive as San Antonio racked up 61 victories while playing in a Western Conference featuring a Golden State Warriors team playing their first season with Kevin Durant.

The Spurs were swept by the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, though Game 1 suggested it would have been a much different series had Leonard not suffered an injury that ended his season.

San Antonio's 18-season run will take some beating, as the Los Angeles Lakers are next on the list with a 12-season run between 1979-80 and 1990-91.

Olympic gold

Popovich took over from Mike Krzyzewski as head coach of Team USA and met expectations by delivering the gold amid the strange backdrop of a pandemic Olympics at the delayed Tokyo 2020.

The USA recovered from an opening defeat to France to once again take the gold, avenging the loss to Les Bleus with an 87-82 win over the same opposition in the final.

After a build-up to the Games in which many questions were raised about the strength in depth of the USA team and a poor start to the competition, the hard-fought triumph added further gloss to the CV of a coach many consider to be the greatest of all time.

The record win

The 2021-22 season has not been one to remember for the Spurs, but a surprise defeat of the Jazz at least gave Popovich a memorable moment in a trying campaign.

San Antonio trailed 74-64 going into the final quarter, but the Spurs racked up 40 across the final frame to improve their record to 26-41 and, more importantly, secure history for their coach, Dejounte Murray the star of the show with 27 for the game.

"Basketball is a team sport," Popovich said afterwards. "All of us share in this record. It's not mine. It's ours."

With Popovich's NBA career showing no signs of imminently coming to an end, he should have plenty of opportunities to extend his lead at the top of the all-time standings and make his record extremely difficult to beat.

Gregg Popovich did not answer a single question on his record-tying 1,335th NBA win in his post-game news conference – and Jakob Poeltl revealed there was no discussion of the achievement in the San Antonio Spurs locker room either.

Popovich, in his 26th season with the Spurs, oversaw a 117-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers to move level with Don Nelson's all-time benchmark.

But the five-time champion and three-time Coach of the Year reserved no time for reflection on that feat in a short chat with the media.

Popovich preferred instead to discuss the Spurs' poor free-throw shooting, their "sloppy" first half and a strong defensive showing.

And Poeltl suggested it was a similar story in private, with the center – who had 18 points – expecting the 73-year-old to remain humble when he moves past Nelson with his next win.

"You guys know Pop," Poeltl said. "I don't think he really cares about stuff like that.

"It didn't even really get mentioned. I doubt it will get mentioned when we get the next win. It's just how he is."

It was left to Lakers coach Frank Vogel to salute his opposite number's accomplishment then.

"[I have] incredible respect for who he is as a coach," Vogel said. "We all, younger coaches, look up to him and admire him and respect what he's done and what he means to our game.

"I'm certainly happy for him. I wish it wasn't against us, but Pop's the best."

The Philadelphia 76ers maintained their perfect record with James Harden in the side with a 121-106 win over the slumping Chicago Bulls on Monday.

Joel Embiid scored 43 points with 14 rebounds while Harden had 16 points, eight rebounds and 14 assists as the 76ers made it six wins from their past seven games.

The 76ers are also 5-0 with Harden in the side, while the Bulls have lost their past five games.

Embiid recorded his 10th 40-plus point game this season, along with his 10th game this season with 40 or more points and 10 or more rebounds. The 76ers center also had his fourth quarter for the season with at least 15 points and five rebounds, which is an NBA high.

For the Bulls, All-Star DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Zach LaVine added 24 points.

 

Jokic records 18th triple-double

Nikola Jokic backed up Sunday's 46-point haul with another triple-double as the Denver Nuggets defeated the short-handed Golden State Warriors 131-124. Jokic had his 18th triple-double of the season by three-quarter time and finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. The Warriors, who rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins in the catch-up game, have lost nine of their past 11 games.

Luka Doncic scored 35 points, with 16 rebounds and seven assists in a tense game, where the All-Star received a technical foul, as the Dallas Mavericks won 111-103 over the Utah Jazz. Doncic's game marked his third this season where he has scored 35 or more points and 15 or more rebounds, with Oscar Robertson the only other guard to achieve the feat in a single season.

Victor Oladipo returned for the first time since April last year for the Miami Heat scoring 11 points in 15 minutes as they beat the Houston Rockets 123-106, while top draft pick Cade Cunningham (28 points and 10 assists) lifted the Detroit Pistons to an over-time win over the Atlanta Hawks 113-110.

 

Spurs equals record as Lakers slump

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich tied Don Nelson's all-time NBA record for most coaching wins (1,335) as they won 117-110 over the Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James. Russell Westbrook struggled in James' absence, with 17 points shooting five-of-14 from the field with five turnovers.

Kyrie Irving was cool under pressure as he scored a season-high 38 points in the Brooklyn Nets' impressive 126-123 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, missed a three-point attempt to send the game to over-time.

The Nets were missing key players Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons but produced a win that showcased their potential having lost 13 of their past 15 games.

New additions Seth Curry (19 points with four three-pointers) and Andre Drummond (17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists) supported Irving well, with the point guard crucial down the stretch from the stripe.

Bobby Portis scored a career-high eight three-pointers in his 30-point haul along with 12 rebounds, while Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks who have lost four of their past five.

 

Ja records career-high haul

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 46 points, while Steven Adams had 12 points with a season-high 21 rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Chicago Bulls 116-110. DeMar DeRozan extended his 30-point streak to 10 games with a 31-point haul as the Bulls' six-game win streak was halted.

Nikola Jokic closed to within five of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time triple-doubles record as the Denver Nuggets won 115-110 over the Sacramento Kings. Jokic had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his 73rd career triple-double.

The Boston Celtics claimed their 11th win from their past 12 games with a 113-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons, while Trae Young dropped 41 points as the Atlanta Hawks won 127-100 against the Toronto Raptors.

 

Pop's record on hold

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will have to wait a few more days before he can tie the NBA record for regular-season victories after a 133-129 loss to the Miami Heat, with Bam Adebayo scoring a season-high 36 points. Popovich has 1,334 regular-season wins as Spurs coach, putting him one behind Don Nelson.

Kyrie Irving scored 22 points upon his return to the Brooklyn Nets side for the first time this season as they came from behind to beat the Indiana Pacers 129-121 and snap a three-game skid on Wednesday.

Irving had been ruled out of the entire regular season by the Nets due to his vaccination status but the franchise changed their stance a fortnight ago, permitting him to play road games.

The 29-year-old point guard played 32 minutes, making nine-of-17 from the field along with three rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Irving's return reunited the 'big three' alongside Kevin Durant (39 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) and James Harden (18 points, five rebounds and six assists).

The Pacers had led 73-60 at half-time with a biggest lead of 19 points before Brooklyn rallied with an 8-0 run to end the third quarter, before Patty Mills put them ahead with a fourth-quarter three-pointer.

Domantas Sabonis recorded a triple-double for the Pacers with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Popovich brings up 2,000th in style

Gregg Popovich coached the San Antonio Spurs for the 2,000th time, recording his 1,325th win in charge as they beat the Boston Celtics 97-95 with Jaylen Brown's lay-up buzzer beater rimming out. Brown scored 30 points with six rebounds, while Dejounte Murray had 22 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists for the Spurs.

Bojan Bogdanovic (36 points, 13 rebounds and four assists) won the battle of the Balkan stars against Nikola Jokic as the Utah Jazz edged the Denver Nuggets 115-109. The reigning MVP was exceptional for the Nugs with 26 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Orlando Magic 116-106, while Giannis Antetokounmpo was absent with a non-COVID-related illness as the Milwaukee Bucks lost 117-111 to the Toronto Raptors with Pascal Siakam netting 33 points.

 

Curry goes cold for Warriors

Stephen Curry had an ordinary shooting night, going five-of-24 from the field and one-of-nine from beyond the arc as the Golden State Warriors lost 99-82 to the Dallas Mavericks. Curry finished with 14 points with nine rebounds while Mavs All-Star Luka Doncic had 26 points with seven rebounds and eight assists.

Steve Kerr saluted the San Antonio Spurs after they ended the Golden State Warriors' 11-match winning home streak in the NBA on Saturday.

The Spurs consigned the Warriors to a shock 112-107 defeat at Chase Center, halting their longest run of victories in their own backyard since they reeled off 54 in a row from January 2015 to March 2016.

League leaders Golden State rallied from 18 points down in the third quarter, but a run of 8-1 closed out an upset for the 8-13 Spurs.

Dejounte Murray scored 22 points and claimed 12 rebounds, with Derrick White finishing with 25 points in a stunning success for San Antonio as Stephen Curry's 27-point haul to go with eight rebounds and five assists was in vain.

Warriors head coach Kerr praised the Suns for a stirring display.

He said: "The Spurs were great. They took it to us right from the outset. They came in playing well, they had a ton of energy, they ran right through us, right past us.

"We just had a tough time getting going, but the fact that our guys gave themselves a chance in the second half with that competitiveness was indicative of the kind of team we have and the kind of guys we have."

 

The Warriors (19-4) were brought back down to earth on the back of halting the Phoenix Suns' 18-game winning run.

Yet Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich felt Kerr's men showed why they are such a force with the manner in which they rallied in the third quarter.

He said: "They really showed their championship mettle by coming back and playing as hard as they did.

"You can see why it's a special program and why they're championship calibre guys. It's not just about the talent, it's all the other stuff and they've got it in spades."

Kevin Durant said Team USA have "got to finish it" after battling past Spain to reach the Olympic semi-finals.

The Brooklyn Nets star poured in a team-high 29 points as the United States won 95-81 at the Saitama Super Arena, bolstering their gold medal hopes.

It was far from an easy assignment, and nor was it always entirely convincing from the US team, who trailed 39-29 with 3:25 of the second quarter remaining.

They rallied impressively, however, to draw level at 43-43 at the halfway point, and Spain never led again.

"We started making shots there in the second quarter. Once we see that ball going into the rim, that put all of us at ease," Durant said.

"Our defence was a little better, a little tighter, we rebounded better after that. And guys just got more comfortable shooting the basketball.

"We drove it to the rim at the end of that second and were able to get our rhythm back a little bit. I like how we played in that second quarter, from the end of the second quarter all the way to finish the game, and that's how we're gonna need to play going forward.

"It was a huge boost. We didn't want to go into the half down double digits. We knew we didn't want to get down big against this team."

Ricky Rubio plundered 38 points for Spain, with the Minnesota Timberwolves man shooting 13-of-20 from the field. That gave him the highest score by a Spain men's player in an Olympic game, beating the 37 points that Pau Gasol scored against China in 2004.

Rubio also drained four of his seven shots from three-point range, the same as Durant, but USA's 22-6 run at the start of the third quarter took the game away from Spain.

The Spaniards briefly got back to just four points behind, in the early moments of the fourth quarter, yet despite their overall 42-32 dominance on the boards, they were found wanting elsewhere.

USA coach Gregg Popovich said: "I feel great about the victory knowing full well there is a lot of work to be done. We played a terrific basketball team.

"To play that team and go down by nine or 10 and stay in and find a way to win is very satisfying."

Durant feels the team are ready to step up a level, now they are through to the final four.

The pre-Olympics defeats to Australia and Nigeria no longer matter, nor does the loss to France in the Tokyo 2020 group stage.

"I love how we stuck with it throughout this whole period of time and guys started figuring out what we need to do," Durant said.

"You've just got to finish it. We're supposed to be here. For us it's about getting a gold."

Kevin Durant believes Jayson Tatum will eventually claim the Team USA points record he just took from Carmelo Anthony.

In scoring 23 points in the United States' 119-84 win over the Czech Republic – a victory that secured their progression to the quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020 – Durant reached 354 in Olympic play.

He is now past Anthony (336) and will expect to stretch his advantage in pursuit of a third Games gold.

The three-pointer that took Durant to new heights gave Team USA their first lead midway through the second quarter, with the Brooklyn Nets forward leading his country's recovery from a slow start.

Tatum took control thereafter, though, finishing on a game-high 27 points.

The 23-year-old is appearing at his first Games but has 50 points through three appearances, prompting Durant to make a bold claim.

Appearing alongside Tatum in a post-game interview, Durant said: "This guy to the left, I think he's going to be the next one to break that record."

 

Tatum boosted his total with five-for-10 three-point shooting, as the United States made 20 shots from deep – tied for their third-most in an Olympic game.

Coach Gregg Popovich said of Tatum: "Obviously he's more confident but he makes better choices, decision-making wise.

"He attacks for himself and for a team-mate at the same time, and he didn't do that in the very beginning in the league; he was just a scorer.

"But now he's valuable because he does the other things. He's starting to rebound better. We're telling him that it's important, we're not that big and we do need him on the boards."

In the same news conference, Durant was asked again about his achievement in surpassing Anthony.

"You just think about all the players that played in this programme and [it is] pretty cool to be among names like that," he said.

"Carmelo is a guy that I played on two Olympic teams with and I've seen his approach to these games and I try to steal some of his techniques and approach.

"It's still pretty weird for me to do stuff like this because I play a team sport and I try my hardest to make it about the group.

"But it is special to do something like that and scoring is something that I've worked on my whole career and something that I've expanded my whole career, and to consistently do it is pretty cool."

"It's time to start looking like Team USA." That was the approach after a shock opening Olympics loss, Damian Lillard said, and the Games favourites delivered on Wednesday.

France had upset the United States in their first game, following up a 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup quarter-final triumph against the same opponents.

It was a defeat that will ensure doubts remain about Team USA's title aspirations for some time, but they at least got back to winning ways against modest opponents in Iran.

Lillard led the way in Wednesday's stand-out game, scoring 21 points in a dominant 120-66 success.

"I think after our loss to France we had two days between games and everybody just wanted to get back out there and get right," the Portland Trail Blazers guard said. "After that loss, we came together."

Lillard added of the Iran game: "I think we came out with a lot more urgency. Our energy was higher, we played at a faster pace. We were more aggressive, and we played like ourselves.

"We didn't come out here and think that it was just going to happen; we made it happen, and that's the way that we've got to play if we want to be successful in these Olympics."

'WE DON'T NEED HEROES'

Lillard's game-high tally – consisting entirely of seven three-pointers – was still significantly down on the 28.8 he averaged in the 2020-21 NBA regular season.

But that is exactly what coach Gregg Popovich wants from his team, knowing Devin Booker (16 points on Wednesday, 25.6 in the NBA), Jayson Tatum (14, 26.4), Zach LaVine (13, 27.4), Kevin Durant (10, 26.9) and Khris Middleton (10, 20.4) cannot all be the main men.

"Each of these guys scores 20 or 25 or 30 for their teams, and their teams depend on that every night," Popovich said. "We can't play like that, and so we don't.

"They appreciate each other and they know what their team-mates can do. They understand that good basketball is sharing the basketball.

"Everybody's, in a sense, kind of a role player now. We don't need heroes."

FRANCE TAKE TOP SPOT

Les Bleus built on their victory over Team USA and will now top Pool A ahead of the American side thanks to a 97-77 defeat of the Czech Republic.

France trailed 28-22 through the first quarter but turned the game around with a dominant second, settled 29-12 in their favour.

As against the United States, Evan Fournier topped the scoring charts, weighing in with 21 points on 62 per cent shooting.

BOOMERS BIGS WIN BATTLE

Australia also have two wins from two after edging Italy 86-83 on Wednesday, led by the frontcourt contributions of Jock Landale and Aron Baynes.

Landale led the Boomers with 18 points, but the pair crucially also finished with seven rebounds and a block apiece. Between them, they accounted for nine of the team's 16 vital offensive rebounds – Nick Kay added another four from the bench.

"Our bigs were huge today," said Utah Jazz wing Joe Ingles. "The rebounds, tip-outs – they got us a ton of extra possessions."

Elsewhere in Pool B, Nigeria's pre-tournament optimism might have given way after a second straight defeat that gives them a mountain to climb.

D'Tigers beat Team USA and Argentina in exhibitions but lost to Australia and then, on Wednesday, Germany – a 99-92 reverse despite 33 points from Jordan Nwora, fresh from playing a fringe role in the Milwaukee Bucks' run to the NBA title, including one minute and three points in the Finals.

United States men's basketball coach Gregg Popovich insists his side's defeat to France in their first outing at Tokyo 2020 should not be considered a surprise result.

Team USA have won gold in the last three Games, but they saw a 25-game winning streak in the tournament come to an end on Sunday against an inspired France side.

Les Blues, who also beat a much-fancied USA in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2019, are ranked seventh in the FIBA rankings but proved too strong for the world's top team with an 83-76 win at the Saitama Super Arena.

Despite his side's long unbeaten run in the competition coming to an end, Popovich – taking charge at his first Games – was quick to put the loss into some perspective.

"People shouldn't be surprised that we lost to the French team or the Australian team or the Spanish team or the Lithuanian team," he told reporters. 

"It doesn't matter who it is – the gap in talent shrinks every year, as there are more and more great players all over the world. 

"And you need to give the French team credit for playing well. They were more consistent than we were at both ends of the court. It's as simple as that."

 

STARS ALIGN FOR HISTORY-MAKING ZOLOTIC

Sunday was a positive day on the whole for Team USA – especially compared to Saturday, when they failed to win a medal on the opening day of a Games for the first time since Munich 1972 – as they picked up four gold, two silver and four bronze.

That haul includes a maiden gold in the women's taekwondo thanks to teenager Anastasija Zolotic, who beat Tatiana Minina of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the final of the -57kg weight category event. 

"My eight-year-old self was running around the schoolyard saying I was going to be Olympic champion but she could never have imagined what this moment is like," Zolotic said. 

"It's unbelievable. It really hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe it. I'm in a bit of shock. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it. It feels wonderful. I came here confident and ready to take the gold. The stars were aligned."

Zolotic's win came on the back of two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones suffering a shock elimination to Refugee Olympic Team member Kimia Alizadeh in the last 16, denying the Team GB athlete a shot of winning a historic third gold.

 

BILES BOUNCES BACK, CHUSOVITINA WAVES GOODBYE

A lot of focus has been on Simone Biles heading into the Games, though she had a rare off day as the USA finished behind ROC in the women's gymnastics qualifying.

Biles, who won four golds and a bronze in Rio, was penalised on both floor and vault but still scored a respectable 14.166 to book a spot in the final.

While Biles still has time on her side, both in Tokyo and in the long term, the 2020 Games will be the last for Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who bowed out on Sunday after a record-setting eighth appearance at the Olympics.

Chusovitina, at the age of 46, just missed out on qualifying for the vault event and was given a standing ovation by the small number of people inside the arena.

To put Chusovitina's remarkable run of appearances into perspective, she made her debut at the Games in 1992, some five years before Biles was born.

"It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time," she said. "I didn't look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy. I'm saying goodbye to sports. It's kind of mixed feelings.

"I'm alive, I'm happy, I'm here without any injuries, and I can stand on my own."

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

Japanese pair Uta and Hifumi Abe made Olympic history as they became the first siblings to win gold medals on the same day of a Games in an individual sport, both enjoying success in judo on day two in Tokyo.

Uta won the women’s 52kg competition, defeating France's Amandine Buchard. A closely contested bout went to a golden score, with Abe crucially claiming ippon to settle the final in her favour.

The two-time world champion cried tears of joy in the aftermath, admitting: "I don't know, maybe it may not have been appropriate but I couldn't hold myself back."

Older brother Hifumi made it a family double, overcoming Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia to triumph in the men's 66kg final.

"This has turned out to be the greatest day ever," he said. "I don't think we, as brother and sister, could shine any brighter on this stage known as the Tokyo Olympics. I'm so happy."

 

Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich is confident his side is getting better after responding to rare back-to-back losses with a 108-80 win over Argentina on Tuesday.

The gold medal favourite's preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics were shaken up after consecutive exhibition game defeats to Australia and Nigeria.

But the Americans were much improved 12 days out from their Olympics opener, led by Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal who both had 17 points and six rebounds.

USA led 58-42 at half-time and never looked back, as Bam Adebayo returned to the starting five with good impact.

“I thought we sustained it pretty well in our game against Australia, and we competed well, rebounded, played defense, ran the floor and had good pace for one half, but then it dissipated through the second half,” Popovich said.

“Tonight, I thought we maintained [effort] pretty much throughout the game, so hopefully that's a sign that we are in a little better condition.

"To play these games is huge for us. So, it was better, and it is getting better, bit by bit, every day.”

Popovich also praised Adebayo along with Draymond Green, while Jayson Tatum missed the game with a right knee injury with no timeframe confirmed.

"I thought both Bam and Draymond Green facilitated a lot of action, and they were very active," Popovich said. "They got everybody involved, which is something that's really important for us."

Beal added that the side had learned some important lessons from the Australia and Nigeria defeats.

"The biggest thing we have to realise is that it’s not the NBA, and coach Pop keeps re-emphasizing that to us every single day," Beal said.

"It’s more physical. These guys have been playing together for five, 10-plus years, so they have this experience and chemistry. We're trying to develop that in a short period of time."

USA have further games against Australia and Spain, before departing for Tokyo next Monday with the first Olympics game against France on July 25.

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