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If Patrick Mills sounds crazy when he says the Australia Boomers are confident they can defeat the unbeaten US NBA Dream Team in their Olympic quarter-final matchup on Wednesday, just ask the Russians.
Mills, a guard for the NBA San Antonio Spurs, sank a 3-pointer at the final buzzer to deliver Russia’s first loss of the Olympics 82-80.
That last-second stunner has sparked the Aussies’ imagination about the chances of delivering the NBA superstars a setback for the ages.
“We have no choice. We have to believe that we can win,” Mills said. “We’re going into the next game with all we’ve got. Going into the quarter-finals and going against the United States, it’s amazing to me.
“There’s a different feel, a different vibe, a different belief in ourselves for our goal to be reached.”
That goal would be to play for an Olympic medal. Australia lost bronze-medal Olympic matches in 1988, 1996 and 2000 and has not played for gold — yet.
“Russia was unbeaten so we feel like we’re really putting ourselves in the mix,” Aussie captain Matt Nielsen said. “We have USA next so we feel really confident going into that.”
The Americans have a 13-0 record over Australia in world and Olympic games, a streak dating to the 1964 Olympics and including a 116-85 drubbing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
But the Boomers say they are not intimidated by the challenge.
“That’s what the group does well, overcome that intimidation factor because we have worried about ourselves,” Mills said.
“We’re not distracted. We’re not worried about other things. I don’t think intimidation will play a factor in the next game. We will have self belief and go into the game confident we can win.”
That has rubbed off on Aussie coach Brett Brown, a Spurs assistant coach.
“We need every bit of that swagger and growth when we play the United States,” Brown said.
“This group enables me to dream a little deeper and a little more seriously. Our confidence is born out of our hard work. We believe we haven’t skipped any steps and we have the opportunity for something really special.”
LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and their fellow NBA superstars have already done something special, scoring an Olympics record 156 points in a victory over Nigeria.
“We look forward to playing against the best,” Mills said. “We don’t want to change anything. This is our best against the best. We will put our best game out there. This is a great opportunity. It’s going to be awesome.”
The US team is 59-1 since settling from bronze at the 2004 Olympics and revamping the national team program with Mike Krzyzewski as coach.
“I’m very familiar with what we are about to encounter,” Brown said. “It’s a considerable challenge but one we embrace. We want to continue our good form.
“What’s intimidating is they have fixed their ‘rental player’ situation from the past and they have a focused team and one coach.”
For Mills, it’s a chance to bring back the glory days of Aussie basketball when former NBA players had the Boomers a consistent medal threat.
“There’s a little bit of pressure to perform so Australian basketball gets the following back like it had in the days of Andrew Gaze and Shane Heal,” Mills said.
“We’re playing better each game. They are the best team in the world but what better opportunity to beat them.”