The USA Men's Basketball team hung on in a 98-88 win over Australia on Wednesday evening, extending their record to 3-0 in the Rio Olympics. Australia is the toughest team the United States has faced so far and proved to be a real challenge for them. What does this mean for the road ahead for the American men's team? Will their challenges against Australia reappear later in Rio? Will it be a repeat of Athens or will they win gold as expected?
The United States knew what to expect when facing Australia. The Australians have five NBA players on their team, presenting a real challenge for the Americans, whose previous competition of China and Venezuela could not compare. Against China, the United States won 119-62, and against Venezuela, they won 113-69. The United States prepared for a difficult, aggressive, Australian team whose starting, NBA line-up, is made up of Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavendova, Joe Ingles, Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes.
"They can beat us. We know that, and we'll prepare accordingly."
- Mike Krzyzewski
The stars of the game from the United States were Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving. Carmelo started the game strong, scoring the first nine points for the U.S. and the first three three pointers. Melo finished the game with 31 points, shooting 9 of 15 from three point range. His impressive performance elevated him above LeBron James to become the most prolific scorer in USA Olympic basketball history with 293 total points.
Kyrie's second half performance helped the Americans escape a near upset. Down 54-49 at half, Irving had five points, and the United States needed to fight back. Irving scored a total of 19 points, including a huge three late in the fourth quarter to extend the U.S. lead, similar to the three he made in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors to win the game. With less than two minutes left, Australia was only down four points to the United States, and it all came down to free throws. Kyrie's maturity and composure was praised down the stretch as he led his team to victory at the end.
On the Australian side, there were many stars of the game. Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavendova, David Andersen, and Patty Mills all scored in double digits, but Patty Mills led the team with 30 points. The whole Australian team worked very well together led by many impressive assists by Matthew Dellavendova, a common theme in these Olympics for their team. Their physicality was something the Americans had not experienced thus far in Rio, but it was a wake up call for what they must face in order to win gold.
"I was waiting for a wake up call," said Kyrie Irving. "Getting hit by this great, Australian team was what I needed."
The United States will likely win Group A as they advanced to 3-0 after this win. From there they will face tougher competition. This game proved winning gold will not be easy for the United States, no matter how good they may be. With 10 first-time Olympians on the team, veterans like Carmelo Anthony must lead the team away from the results of 2004 when they lost in Athens and towards the expected results of winning gold.
Published by Lia Assimakopoulos