Written by Megan Hustwaite.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
History was made on Saturday when the Boomers defeated USA Basketball for the first time to wrap up an enthralling exhibition series in Melbourne.
Australia ended the visitors' 78-game winning streak with a stirring, 98-94, victory in front of 52,092 pumped-up spectators at Marvel Stadium.
Even more history was made as the bumper crowd broke Thursday night’s game 1 record for the biggest attendance at a basketball match in Australia. All in all, an incredible 102,000 fans turned out for the two friendlies.
Andrew Bogut said it best when declaring, “Couldn’t be prouder to be an Australian basketballer right now.”
HOW’D WE DO IT?
After falling short on Thursday night, coach Andrej Lemanis and the Boomers made changes and responded, as was the case during the contest.
The Boomers were just a point down, 49-48, at half time but the margin blew out to double figures early in the third term thanks to a Jayson Tatum-dunk which lifted USA Basketball.
But the Boomers bounced back in perfect fashion, overhauling the deficit to take a narrow 88-87 advantage into the final break. And as they say, the rest is history.
Cometh the hour, cometh Patty Mills.
The Boomers needed a hero and it was the superstar point guard who delivered and had viewers, both in the stadium and watching from home, in raptures. Mills was simply superb, his hot hands sinking a game-high 30 points including his country’s final 10 points in a gripping last three minutes.
The cream rose to the top and Australia’s experience was paramount as Mills took the game by the scruff of its neck, Joe Ingles (15 points, seven assists and four rebounds) became the organiser and Bogut (16 points, nine rebounds and four assists) was critical off the bench, his influence telling.
The experience of Aron Baynes and Matthew Dellavedova shone through in important moments and rising star Jock Landale has made himself at home in the Boomers’ starting five, in Perth against Canada then in Melbourne, while attracting praise from USA Basketball coach Gregg Popovich who said “he’s turned into one hell of a player.”
Bogut summed up the occasion, and its significance, post-game.
“It’s huge for us. It’s a friendly, so we do want to keep it in context, but we did make history tonight. The first senior men’s Australian team to beat an American team.”
Kemba Walker wrapped up the series with another strong display, leading USA Basketball’s stat sheet with 22 points.
Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis: “So, obviously, it’s part of the process that we don’t get too high on the highs and too low on the lows, the pleasing thing is that we got better today.”
Patty Mills: “We do it as teammates, we do it as best friends. “We’ve always been the underdogs. Hell of a group. We’re trying to create history.”
Joe Ingles: “We’re glad they came out here and enjoyed the challenge, for us it’s been about getting better and building towards the World Cup. It’s up to us how we go from here – we can keep building or think we’re on top of the world after one win. We’ll enjoy it, it’s obviously a good win for us.”
The Boomers flew out to China on Monday ahead of the FIBA World Cup. The squad will take to the court in a closed session against Germany before their first pool game of the tournament against Canada on September 1.
Meanwhile, USA Basketball is in Sydney to play Canada on Monday night.