LAS VEGAS — The U.S. men’s basketball team — packed with NBA stars, many fresh off playoff runs — had to hear about its loss to Nigeria for two days before getting the chance to remove the bad taste from its mouth.

After a second straight exhibition loss, this time 91-83 to Australia at Michelob Ultra Arena, the bad taste lingered and the questions will come anew for a team that will go to Tokyo later this month as the favorite to defend the gold medal it won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Team USA again struggled on defense and failed to get stops when it needed them most. Nigeria, which became the first African team to beat Team USA, made 20 three-pointers in Saturday’s 90-87 win. Australia wasn’t quite as prolific, but the Boomers shot 52.9 percent from the field and the Americans had no answer for Patty Mills, who tied Damian Lillard with a game-high 22 points.

“It is different,” Lillard said. “In the past when I’ve watched, you’ll see one guy on a different team that is in the rotation in the NBA, and they might have a guy on the bench that’s just on a team. Now you go out there and the whole starting five is an NBA team — they’re all rotational players. These other teams from these other countries just continue to improve. These players, they get better, they get more confident, and they also want to beat us badly.”

The United States will go for its first win of this exhibition schedule Tuesday when it hosts Argentina. Whether it addresses its defensive deficiencies in that game remains to be seen.

Joe Ingles added 17 points for Australia. Matisse Thybulle chipped in 12, and Chris Goulding had 11 off the bench.

“I just expect him to do it,” Ingles said of Mills. "It’s what he’s done for 12 years. It’s just what he does for our group. He’s as unselfish as anyone on our team, but we also know when it comes down to it, he’s the guy we’re going to.

“I expect it. … It’s just international Patty — that’s just what happens.”

Team USA struggled to close every quarter, and that caught up to the Americans late. The U.S. squad rallied to take an 82-80 lead in the fourth quarter, but Australia closed the game on an 11-1 run.

Two possessions in particular proved costly in the final period. The first came when Jayson Tatum air-balled a three-pointer with 1:03 remaining after the ball wound up in his hands off an errant pass. Draymond Green then committed a turnover while driving to the basket with 28 seconds left. The Americans never scored again.

“I thought we got better tonight,” U.S. Coach Gregg Popovich said. “After a short time together, there’s a lot of things that have to be covered. But the first half and the second half were two different beasts. The first half we defended the way we wanted to defend, the way we did not defend against Nigeria. We were more physical. We sustained the defense longer. We rebounded better at the offensive end and had more pace. In the second half, we tired out. And when that happens, you get hit mentally a little bit, too.”

Kevin Durant scored 17 points, and Bradley Beal finished with 12. No one else on the U.S. roster reached double figures, and the team shot just 36.1 percent from behind the arc.

Team USA is still trying to find its way as a new group with limited practice time. Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday — all committed to play in Tokyo — are playing in the NBA Finals.

The United States went into halftime with a 46-37 lead thanks to a stout second quarter of defense. The Americans simply weren’t able to maintain that level of intensity in the second half.

The game started with both teams firing away before Australia went cold in the second quarter, scoring just 13 points, Australia gained a bit of momentum entering intermission when Mills made a long jumper to beat the buzzer.

Beal and Lillard came out aggressive to start and carried the offensive load. Lillard scored 11 points in just over nine minutes in the first quarter and had 16 before halftime. Beal attacked the rim hard and had eight points at the half.

The U.S. defense had a difficult time with Ingles at the start. The Australians clearly saw the Americans struggle to defend the three-point line against Nigeria because Ingles found space to make two quick threes early to put Australia up 13-7. Team USA answered with a 17-4 run fueled largely by Lillard and Beal.

It didn’t trail again until the third quarter, when Australia used a 14-4 run to take a 64-62 lead. The eight-point advantage at the end was the largest of the game for Australia.

“We figured some things out and played much better in the second half than we did in the first half,” Australia Coach Brian Goorjian said. “Moved the ball better. Got better shots and defensively figured things out.”