Despite a furious fourth-quarter rally, spurred by the heroics of Joe Ingles and Patty Mills, who accounted for 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting (59%), Brazil edged out a four-point victory over Australia.
Marcelinho Huertas controlled the tenor of the game for the Brazilians, as he darted around pick-and-rolls effortlessly while finishing a couple of difficult floaters in the teeth of the defense. Huertas finished with 15 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.
Brazil exited the first half with a one-point lead over the Boomers despite converting on 37% of their 2-point field goals. They totaled five assists, compared to eight for Australia, coupled with 2-of-7 shooting from behind the arc. Their rebounding advantage was negligible as well. In an otherwise sloppy half of basketball, their lead stemmed from their ability to parlay turnovers into efficient transition opportunities. Given the nature of the game — it was both teams’ first Olympic match — it’s understandable that mistakes were prevalent.
They opened the second half on a 6-0 run before Mills broke the run with a difficult layup. Mills’ bucket was only a temporary blip though, as Huertas keyed an attack that began the third frame on a 16-4 run.
Mills was taxed with the responsibility of keeping the entire offense afloat. He did so admirably but you can’t expect anyone, much less a diminutive 6’0″ point guard that relies extensively on quickness, to withstand the pressure of creating for an entire offense. He was also maligned with some foul trouble so it was a good time to give him some rest.
His teammates, notably David Anderson, didn’t disappoint. They responded with a 8-0 run; the last six coming courtesy of Anderson — including a couple of impressive fadeaways in the high post.
The final quarter was highly entertaining; Huertas was slowly whittling the Boomers defense within the confines of the pick-and-roll and Australians were developing a rapport with an important weapon — the 3-point line. The Boomers only converted on 4-of-22 3-point attempts but they received timely shots that closed the deficit.
And with 39.4 seconds left, the Australians found themselves within four points and possession. The ensuing possession — a beautifully executed backdoor dive, finished by Ingles — cut the lead to two with a little over 28 seconds remaining.
The game came to an anti-climactic finish when Huertas strategically dribbled the clock down. On his foray to the rim, he threaded a pass that was kicked out of bounds. The play was significant because it erased the four seconds left on the clock, forcing the Boomers to foul.
Mills nearly created a steal on the inbounds pass before fouling Huertas. Huertas knocked down both free throws and the game was essentially closed. A couple of desperate 3-pointers later and Brazil exited with a tough victory in their first preliminary match.