It is clear the United States has the best basketball team in the Olympic Games. Most teams cannot stay on the floor with them. But Australia can. And they did.
With NBA players such as Paddy Mills of the San Antonio Spurs, Matthew Dellavadova formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers, now of the Milwaukee Bucks and Andrew Bogut of the Golden State Warriors, the Aussies hung with the Americans for most of their game on Wednesday in Rio.
Carmelo Anthony led the Americans with 31 points and Kyrie Irving added 19 as they pulled away late in the fourth quarter to hold Australia off 98-88 in a game closer than the score indicates. Mills lit up Team USA for 30 points and Bogut chipped in 15 as Australia announced they are serious medal contenders, perhaps even gold medal contenders.
The game was tied 29-29 after the first quarter and Australia took a five point lead into the halftime locker room at 54-49. The US clamped down on the Aussies in the second half defensively, holding them to 13 points in the third quarter, regaining the lead 70-67. the fourth quarter belonged entirely to Irving and Anthony as they took over the game and held Australia at bay.
The Warriors duo of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both struggled in this game. Durant scored 14 points but was 4-16 from the floor and Thompson was 2-9. These two could possibly meet for the Gold Medal if the US goes on to win their Group and the Aussies finish second, which looks very likely now.
Australia and France are tied are 2-1 but the Aussies have already beaten the French team, so they hold the tie breaker. Australia’s remaining two games in Group A play are against winless China and a weak Venezuela team.
The USA will take on France on Sunday in what should be another good game and also plays Serbia on Saturday. The quarterfinals will begin on Wednesday the 17th.
In Group B, the tournament’s biggest disappointment is Spain, who will need to rally to qualify for the quarterfinals after their 0-2 start. Winners of the last two silver medals at the Olympics, Spain has lost a two point game to Croatia and a one point game to Brazil. So the Aussies appear to be poised to be the USA’s next serious challenger.