by Sean Ryan
Australia gave USA their first taste of real competition during these Olympics after leading at halftime by five points (first time USA trailed at half since 2004).
The Americans looked unsettled during the first half as Australia pushed them around like a bully taking someone’s lunch money. Matthew Dellavedova and Andrew Bogut, two players known for playing hard and sometimes “excessive,” led the charge for the Aussies.
Dellavedova baited Paul George into a quick technical foul after pushing him off the block and exchanging a few pleasantries while receiving his first foul. Demarcus Cousins, who’s been in foul trouble all three games, picked up two quick ones within the first three minutes. The camera cut to him on the bench banging the seat cushion like a bongo player going too hard.
Carmelo scored 14 of Team USA’s 29 points in the first quarter, highlighted by starting the game three for four behind the arc. Besides this scoring display, USA fans didn’t have much to cheer about.
With the scored tied 29-29 and Australia shooting over fifty percent, it seemed reminiscent of USA’s previous game against Venezuela; however, this time there wouldn’t be a second quarter domination.
Australia continued their electric shooting by going 10 for 13 in the second quarter and finishing the half with a field goal percentage of 68. Patty Mills and David Andersen powered the Aussies by scoring 15 and 10 respectively in the first half.
USA seemed rattled by the Australians picking up full court and fighting for position on both the offensive and defensive ends. Thanks to terrific shooting from deep (10 made three pointers) and decent rebounding, the deficit was only five.
Now cue the comeback.
A quick 9-0 run to start the third was sparked on the defensive end by forcing two missed layups, Bogut taking an ill-advised jumper (air-ball), and Patty Mills missing a three pointer (rare). It’s safe to assume Tom Thibodeau, who looked like Jeff Spicoli from Ridgemont High in the first half, lit a fire under Team USA during halftime for their defensive effort.
The rest of the third quarter went back and forth as US fans frantically waited for their team to pull away. It never happened.
The tension mounted for Team USA as they only led by three to start the fourth quarter. Australia took a 72-70 lead with nine minutes left when Carmelo Anthony heated up again. After a layup and four three pointers in the next five minutes, USA led 88-80 and entered cruise control for the rest of the game (somewhat). Kyrie Irving, who finished with 19 points, sprinkled in 12 throughout the fourth quarter as a quick reminder his last three games of the NBA Finals were no fluke.
USA will practice tomorrow before playing Serbia on Friday. Hopefully, this first glimpse of adversity will serve them well later on.