Gregg Popovich reveals why Dame Lillard was benched in Team USA’s win over Spain
Team USA beat Spain in the quarterfinals of the Olympic men’s basketball tournament overnight, but it didn’t come without some drama. The Americans fell behind by 10 points early and appeared to be on the ropes before righting the ship to tie the game at halftime. In the second half, Gregg Popovich decided to bench Damian Lillard for the final seven minutes of the 95-81 victory.
The Team USA head coach explained the decision to bench his No. 2 guy, via The Athletic’s Joe Vardon:
“Adjusting during the game is really important,” Popovich said. “It depends on how people are playing, what the matchups are, score at the time, whether you need defense or offense. All those considerations go into who’s going to be on the court at that time. So, we just make the best decision we can and that’s what we decided tonight, and it worked out.”
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Crunch time is usually Dame Time, but it wasn’t meant to be for the Blazers star in this Team USA game. Lillard was really struggling to contain Spain’s Ricky Rubio, who poured in a game-high 38 points, and he only had 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting offensively. So, Pop made the tough call to bench his second-best player because he felt it would give Team USA the best chance to move to the semifinal match.
Team USA closed with Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and a combo of Draymond Green/Bam Adebayo. Durant was the star of the show again after a sluggish start to the game, finishing with a team-high 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting. KD’s surge in the second and third quarters helped turn a Team USA “panic,” as Green put it, into a victory.
Team USA will now face the winner of Australia vs. Argentina in the semifinals. After all the issues, they’re still just two wins away from gold. Hopefully, Damian Lillard will bounce back and help them get that medal.