Golden dream over for Opals

They were gutsy, they were aggressive, and they rattled the cage of the most dominant outfit in Olympic basketball history.

Even USA coach Geno Auriemma admitted the Opals tore apart his champion team.

Veteran forward Tamika Catchings said the defending gold medallists had been "destroyed."

But for all of Australia's first-half fight, their golden dream was again blown out of the sky by their long-time nemesis at North Greenwich Arena on Thursday night.

The Opals will now play for bronze on Saturday after the USA continued a 20-year, 40-match unbeaten Games streak with a 86-73 victory.

Ahead 47-43 at halftime, Australia's campaign unravelled in the second half as the Americans showed their class and the Opals failed to recover from the significant loss of defensive specialist Jenny Screen.

Screen played no part after halftime as she was unable to see out of her right eye which was severely swollen from an accidental second-quarter collision.

The 30-year-old was sent for precautionary X-rays after the match and may have played her last Olympic match.

Australia lost the previous three Olympic finals to the USA and were the pre-Games tip to make another decider, but in the end it was their surprise first-up pool loss to France which set up the showdown one match early.

The Opals had progressed to the semi-final on grit but showed that as well as precision, smarts and skill in the first half as they surprised the Americans, particularly with their physical defence.

Twin towers Liz Cambage and Lauren Jackson were dominant and a monstrous upset was simmering against a team which had won all it's previous matches by 25-plus.

"I don't think anybody has played better against us for a long time than Australia did in that first half - that was an impressive display of basketball and we didn't have any answers to that," Auriemma said.

"It was incredible what they did to us, and I have a lot of admiration for them.

"They're two big guys were just killing us."

But the Americans moved to a 2-3 zone after the break and their bench strength shone through as they completely shut down Cambage, who failed to add to her 19 first-half points.

It epitomised the Opals' night as the USA grabbed the momentum in the third quarter and never let go.

A series of missed free-throws, ironically by Cambage and Jackson, and turnovers opened the door and guard Diana Taurasi romped through with two clutch three-pointers.

Shattered but proud captain Jackson admitted Screen's loss was a heavy blow and they were also punished for not adapting to the USA's defensive adjustments.

"I'm kind of numb at the moment," the Australian flagbearer said. "I think we can walk away with our heads held up high.

"My heart's not broken.

"We definitely are taking strides but the US are the best team in the world.

"We'll take it on the chin."