The Boomers produced their strongest start to the tournament to lead at both quarter (six points) and half time (three points) before the reigning triple gold medallists breathed fire with a scintillating 32-10 term.
Australia’s men, who have never claimed an Olympic medal, have the chance to do so in the bronze medal game against Slovenia or France on Saturday night (9pm, AEST).
The Boomers, playing great team basketball, led by as much as 15 points with five minutes played in the second quarter but it all came unstuck as the Americans began to swing the momentum, with improved defence and running of the lanes, winning the quarter by six.
Spearheaded by NBA superstar Kevin Durrant (23 points, 9 rebounds) the USA got aggressive, dominated the boards and stamped their authority all over a monster 55-33 second half.
Post-game, Australian coach Brian Goorjian spoke of how proud he was of his team.
“I’m certainly not going to be in the room with my head hung. We showed what the Olympics is about, you’ve got an opportunity to show what your team and country is about,’’ he said.
“We’re scrappers and we’re a team that gets the most out of what we’ve got. We try to play basketball the right way and when you’re talking about our performance right now – I loved the way we played, I thought we did it right, the problem was trying to do that for 40 minutes against a team like this.
“The addition, from when we played them last time, of (Devin) Booker, (Jrue) Holiday and (Khris) Middleton just gave them more bite.”
Jock Landale adding that the Boomers couldn’t afford to dwell on the loss with the bronze medal game 48 hours away.
“We put this game behind us and move and don’t let there be a hangover,’’ he said.
“Obviously we’re disappointed because we came here to win gold but, at the end of the day, we still have the opportunity to make history in our country and win a bronze medal.
“It would be selfish of us to carry this into the next game, we’ve got to be ready to roll. I’m already motivated and trying to put this behind me.”
Boomers captain Patty Mills (15 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) topped Australia’s stat sheet, Dante Exum (14 points) was strong at both ends early, with Landale adding 11 points and 6 rebounds.
For the winners, Devin Booker scored 20 points amongst his absorbing match-up with Mills while Jrue Holiday (11 points, 8 rebounds) and Khris Middleton (11 points) were influential with their play making and scoring.
USA 97 (Durrant 23 points, Booker 20) defeated Australia 78 (Mills 15, Exum 14)
The Last Word with Andrew Gaze, 5x Olympian (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)
“We showed our best is good enough to compete with the best in the world, we just weren’t able to sustain it with increased defensive pressure by Team USA.
“They (the Boomers) will lose a little sleep over this one but we need to regroup and there’s still an opportunity to win a medal.”