Hungry for more, though, Patty Mills made clear the Boomers hadn’t “done s…”, despite booking a semi-final showdown with the United States after a 97-59 thrashing of perennial contenders Argentina late on Tuesday night.
“For us to be able to be the best, we have to beat the best,” Mills said of a Boomers outfit which’ll have two bites at the cherry as they look to break their Olympic medal drought.
“There’s only one thing that we’re focused on, and we have to get it done,” Mills added. “Tonight’s performance was a result of the belief in each individual on this team.”
Displaying the sort of defensive stubbornness that head Brian Goorjian believes can be the difference against the best teams remaining, the Boomers left their opponents a flustered mess.
Mills topscored for Australia with 18 points, while four other Boomers hit double digits in an offensive showing that was almost as exciting as what we saw on the other end.
A Matthew Dellavedova three to start the game looked as though it might have been a sign of what was to come. Instead, five Australian turnovers followed as the Boomers managed just 15 more points in the first quarter, while Argentina took a 22-18 lead into the second period.
Australia had gotten into a groove of tightening the screws defensively in the second half in their group stage games. They didn’t wait that long against Argentina.
Nine Boomers got playing time in the opening 10 minutes as Goorjian experimented with big, small and everything in-between line-ups.
Small seemed to be the answer as Australia kept Argentina to just two points in the opening four minutes of the second period. By the first timeout of the period, the Boomers were up 26-24 after Matisse Thybulle found a streaking Mills for an open lay-up. Three minutes later it was 34-28. By the half, the Boomers had consolidated their lead to take a 39-33 advantage into the break.
The third quarter saw the Boomers threaten to pull away time and time again, only for a sticky Argentina side to stay in touch, before a Dante Exum surge saw Australia take a 60-48 lead into the fourth.
Another Exum drive and finish, followed by a Thybulle three-pointer put the Boomers up 17 points with eight minutes to play in the final period. By the time Chris Goulding’s three dropped in, Australia was up 25 points and the game was effectively over. From there, it only got uglier as the Boomers won the final quarter 37-11.
“I thought the guys, all the way through, have been growing in the way that we want to play,” Goorjian said post-game. “We’re continuing to progress.”
If Argentina failed to provide the test Australia might have been expecting, the United States certainly will.
After losing their Olympic opener in a shock upset against France, Team USA has gone from strength to strength. Earlier on Tuesday they dispatched world champions Spain behind a second half that would have struck fear into the rest of the tournament.
Australia beat Team USA just last month in a Las Vegas warm-up game, and before that in a 2019 exhibition in Melbourne, but will need to be at a different level on Thursday if they want to progress to the gold medal game.
Story first published on FoxSports Australia