Australia needs Patty Mills to deliver — and boy did he, even though the grandeur of his game-winning shot superseded the actual significance of the win, which didn’t change much.
But it doesn’t change that they will need their best player to contribute against Team USA. The Boomers’ offensive attack hinges on Mills’ ability in a way that isn’t matched on any other team. Mills proved, in his otherwise decent 13-point game against Russia and his 39-point outburst against Great Britain, that he is worthy of the heaps of pressure he’s saddled with.
The shot, Mills believes, will be good for confidence and rhythm. Prior to the shot, Mills was a secondary option behind Matt Dellavedova and Joe Ingles.
“It’s one of those shots that you always dream of making and when you do it against a team like Russia who have been great, it’s good for the confidence and the rhythm going into the next game,” Mills said.
The shot may be the confidence boost the Australians inherently need to pull off a stunning upset over the United States. To beat the best, they’ll need Mills to ratchet up his efficiency and Ingles, who scored 20 points and found Mills at the top of the key on the final possession, to score early and often. The rest will fall where they may.
“We’ve got to [believe we can beat the US], this is what the Olympic Games is all about – playing against the best,” Mills said. “They’re the best and what better way to go into the quarter final than with the belief we have.
I’m excited, this is why you play at the Olympics, this is what it’s about. We’re going up against the best and this is a great opportunity, this is what you live for and work for.”
Australian head coach Brett Brown is familiar with this situation because of his experience with San Antonio. Brown wasn’t manning the sidelines then but it’s also eerily similar to the scenario in Beijing — the Australians were pitted against the US in the quarterfinals, who ousted them by 31 points at the 2008 Games.
“I’m very familiar with what we’re about to encounter … it’s about having this situation and looking forward to playing this level of talent,” Brown said. “A lot of guys want to use this as a measuring stick and we look forward to continuing our form against the world’s best players.”