This morning, Australian time, the Boomers nearly became the first team to knock off the world No.1 side at a Games since 2004.
That’s if it wasn’t for Carmelo Anthony and his record 31 points.
A masterclass late in the fourth quarter from the Americans’ most experienced player turned a two-point deficit into a scarily close 98-88 victory for the US – their 18th straight at an Olympics.
While the United States put China and Venezuela away with ease, Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova made them work hard for the win.
The Australians, who earlier toppled top-six nations France and Serbia, led for large periods of the game and did not trail by more than eight points until the dying seconds.
Mills finished with 30 points and Bogut added 15 points, while Dellavedova had 11 points plus 11 assists and six rebounds.
“That was the first real international game we’ve had,” US coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
“Australia have probably played the best of anybody in the Olympics… they just play lights-out basketball.
“They’re going to vie for a gold medal.”
Winning gold – not just a maiden medal – was a goal they set after qualifying for the Rio Games last year.
“I know many have laughed at us along the way, but perhaps tonight’s performance will help some others believe it,” Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis said.
Kevin Durant believes it, predicting Australia will go pretty far this tournament after what he came up against.
But Bogut, despite being surprised by his own performance in just his third game back from a knee injury, wasn’t all smiles.
“We’re disappointed,” he said.
“We lost. We’re not going to take small moral victories.
“They’re the best team in the world, we battled them and we thought we should’ve been in a position to try and grind out a closer game.
“In the past, you get within 10 or 15 and you get a birthday cake in the locker-room and everyone thinks it’s the best day ever.
“We have a different mindset this Olympics and hopefully we can keep that grit and determination.”
Having been drawn in the same group for Rio, the two teams won’t be able to meet again until the gold medal match should they finish in the top two.
The Boomers next play China, while the USA face Serbia.
Anthony overtook LeBron James as the Americans’ all-time leading scorer midway through the match.
Elsewhere, Cate Campbell and her sister Bronte are both through to tomorrow’s women’s 100 metres freestyle final.
Cate easily won her heat, breaking the Olympic record for the second time today, while Bronte cruised through in second place in her heat.
Meanwhile, the men’s sevens rugby team have scraped into the quarter-finals after a dramatic end to pool play at Deodoro Stadium.
The Australians were at risk of being knocked out in the group stage after a poor opening day but a crucial 12-5 upset of South Africa helped them through to the quarter-finals on points differential.
And the Hockeyroos finally scored their first win, with a 6-1 demolition of India lifting them from last in Pool B into the top four and a possible place in the quarter-finals.
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