After convincing wins over China and Venezuela, things were bound to get much more difficult for the United States men’s basketball team. With an Australian team chock full of NBA veterans on the schedule for Wednesday night, the Americans were going to have to do more than simply show up to the basketball arena in order to win.
But with that being said, few people expected the game to be as difficult as it was. Mike Krzyzewski’s team ultimately won by the final score of 98-88, erasing their first halftime deficit in Olympic play since their disastrous bronze medal run in 2004. And for that the United States can thank team captain Carmelo Anthony, who in becoming the all-time leading scorer in USA Basketball history bailed his teammates out from what was a mediocre offensive performance.
Anthony finished the game with a team-high 31 points, shooting 11-for-21 from the field with nine of his made shots being three-pointers. Melo scored 14 of those points in the first quarter, surpassing David Robinson and LeBron James to grab the top spot on the all-time scoring list. Another run from Anthony, this one in the fourth quarter, provided the boost the Americans needed to avoid what would have been a major upset (Vegas lines closed with the U.S. favored by 27 points).Also key in the fourth quarter were a couple key shots from Kyrie Irving, one of which being a three from the right wing eerily similar to the one he hit in Game 7 of the NBA Finals for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Irving finished with 19 points and Kevin Durant added 14, but he provided those points on 4-for-16 shooting from the field. Remove Anthony’s numbers, and the United States shot 23-for-66 (34.8 percent) from the field. The ball and player movement of the Australians was superior to that of the Americans for most of the first three quarters, giving the Boomers a chance to win the game and move into sole possession of first place in Group A.
Patty Mills led four Australian players in double figures with 30 points, and as a team they shot 50 percent from the field. Mills and Matthew Dellavedova caused the Americans trouble in ball screen situations, and the poor hedges/switches resulted in clean looks for the upstarts. As they’re in the same group the United States and Australia can’t meet in the quarterfinal round, but Wednesday’s contest had the feeling of one that we could very well see again in Rio.