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Australia Almost Beats Team USA In Rio Olympics Basketball

That was sooooo close.

11/08/2016 7:08 AM AEST | Updated August 11, 2016 10:35
Jim Young / Reuters
Andrew Bogut played a strong game

The unthinkable almost just happened in the Rio 2016 Olympic basketball tournament match between Team USA and Australia. Almost. It really, really, really did almost happen.

Team USA beat Australia 98-88 but it could so easily have gone the other way.

Australia was so good. Just so good. For three months, our players have been saying they could beat the Americans here in Rio. Some of the Aussies were even bolder than that. They used the letter w, saying they 'would', not 'could', beat the Americans.

And they almost did. The Americans were never in top gear this match, but that's because Australia didn't allow them to be. Australia hustled and they bustled in defence. And they shot like a dream. At one stage, Australia was shooting 70 percent of its shots from the floor compared to the USA's 28 percent.

The millionaires and household names and idols to hundreds of millions of fans? You could have sworn it was the men in gold, not the guys in navy blue.

Jim Young / Reuters
Mills showed some lovely touches.

In truth, about half the Australian team are household names in sports-loving American households too. Four of the Aussies have won NBA titles: Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors), Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers, just last month), and Patty Mills and Aron Baynes (San Antonio Spurs).

Their experience at the highest level really showed.

Mills was brilliant, weaving his way around the U.S. defence the way Donald Trump weaves his way around the truth. He top-scored for Australia with 30 points. Andrew Bogut was just an enormous presence in the centre of the court, always there when his teammates needed him and surprisingly nimble when he needed to be. The guy is 213cm but plays with the agility of a guy much smaller.

AFP/Getty Images
They called him "Bogey" instead of "Bogut" and for a while there, he really was America's bogey man.

Several times Bogut and Dellavedova combined for the move which is technically called an alley-oop but which, in their case, really should be known as the Delly-oop. Aussie captain David Andersen -- who has NBA experience but now plays in Australia's NBL -- was also fantastic.

Team USA kept coming back because Team USA is Team USA. They just have so much class. But Australia kept coming back because Australia is Australia. They just have so much guts.

This was an incredible occasion. The dual courtside announcers (one in Portuguese, one in English) seem like they got lost on the way to a boxing match, such was their tendency to draw out players' names in a really gruff voice.

"Andreeeeewwwww Bogeeeeeeyyyyyyyyy".

Yep, that's not a mistake. They actually kept saying "Bogey" instead of Bogut. But it was all part of the fun. There has been an incredible atmosphere at certain events here in Rio when champions like Michael Phelps unleash a soul-stirring performance. But there has been no event this reporter has attended where the crowd was so pumped throughout the match. Even the neutral Brazilians warmed to the contest.

This was the Rio Carnival on a 92 x 49 feet expanse of timber, complete with samba drums in the breaks of play. It really was quite a night out.

And in the end, it was America's night. The difference was Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks who shot an incredible nine of his first 14 three-point attempts. Every time Team USA needed points, he'd drain it from distance. He finished with a match-high 31 points.

Jim Young / Reuters
You gotta salute the way he played.

So Australia has lost. But they've won the respect of the basketball world and the hearts of fans in Rio. This may have been a preview of the gold medal match. And who knows what might happen then?

Even if it's not a gold medal, Australia looks well on track to win its first Olympic men's basketball medal of any colour here in Rio. The Boomers went really went boom! And Team USA looks well on track to avoid the ignominy of Athens 2004 -- the only Olympics in the "dream team" era of professional NBA players when it failed to make the Olympic final.

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