What a day for basketball in Australia.
The Boomers 98-94 victory over Team USA, their first ever over the Americans, will go down as one of Australian basketball’s most memorable moments.
Played before 52,000 people at a packed Marvel Stadium (although some of the seating arrangements clearly left a lot to be desired), the Boomers’ immense World Cup potential was on full display.
In breaking Team USA’s 78-game winning streak, the unique skills of Australia’s biggest stars were on show - Patty Mills’ shooting and quickness, Joe Ingles and Andrew Bogut’s passing, Matthew Dellavedova’s ability to annoy the hell out of opponents on defence.
Jock Landale’s continued impressive play furthered his case for a spot on an NBA roster, while NBL stars Chris Goulding and Nick Kay also impressed in their minutes.
Team USA won’t be hitting the panic button any time soon - they lost by four to a gritty Australian team who rode Mills’ hot hand to a surprising win.
But for Australia, not only did the victory prove their name should be up there with some of the favourites from Europe at the World Cup, it also proved how far basketball has come in the last decade.
While circumstances were certainly favourable for the Boomers with so many of the US’ biggest stars pulling out of the team, a win over the most dominant country in world basketball was unthinkable, even just a few years ago.
Australia certainly had some elite talent, but the rosters were always too top heavy. There was never enough depth to counter that of Australia’s biggest rivals.
This is not the case anymore, thanks in large part to the rejuvenation of the NBL.
Chris Goulding, though he didn’t score as much compared to game one, remained a good option of the bench, while Nick Kay rewarded coach Andrej Lemanis’ faith in him with a solid performance of his own.
The win cemented Australia’s status as an elite contender at the upcoming World Cup.
Outside of the US, who will remain the favourite, the likes of Serbia, France, Spain and Greece are traditionally strong competitors who boast a similar sense of continuity when compared to the Boomers.
Australia’s elite team play, particularly from Mills, Ingles and Bogut, will give plenty of other contenders pause for thought heading into the tournament.
Is this the best version of the Australian national team we’ve seen? Arguably yes, and the likes of Deng Adel and Brock Motum, both of whom are available, were deemed surplus to requirements.
If circumstances break Australia’s way heading into the 2020 Olympics, and Ben Simmons, Dante Exum and Thon Maker are able to play as well?
The sky could well be the limit for the Boomers.
In the meantime, their attention will focus on the aforementioned World Cup - expectations of a medal might be higher than ever before.