Yes, it was an “exhibition”, a pre-Olympic trial. Yes, Team USA had come together as a squad six days previously. And yes, at times, it looked like they were in cruise control.
And of course, yes, yes, yes – we shouldn’t get too excited that Australia beat the United States in a basketball game two weeks before the Olympic Games.
But well! The Boomers’ 91-83 win over the Dream Team in Las Vegas is now their second on the trot after the 98-94 win in Melbourne in 2019.
And, if nothing else, against a team of NBA superstars led by Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Damian Lillard, it has given Australia belief: we can beat these people again and again.
But then they appear to know that, these very good Boomers, and were not overawed by any stretch. None of them on paper would make Team USA. But as a team they scrap and rip and tear, and there’s a lot to like about them.
Particularly now they’ve just beaten the best. Twice on the jump.
Team America did flex their muscles for long sections. When they turned it on, moved the ball around and put their hyper-skilled athletes in space, they made it look pretty. And even a bit easy, like a Playstation highlights reel.
When Lillard wanted to hit a three, he hit one. When Durant wanted to hit a three, he hit one, too. When Bradley “The Real Deal” Beal wanted to scream into the key and rip off a dunk and hang off the rim like a Parkour guy mucking about on a scaffold, he did.
Lillard, a Portland Trailblazer, finished with 22 points and six three-pointers. At halftime he compared America’s play to the Nigeria game two days before: “We are much more aggressive, much more talkative. We’re just playing harder now.”
Yet Australia was, too. At halftime Basketball Australia declared it “a competitive first-half display from the boys with plenty to get excited about”. It rang only half-true; they were down by nine points.
But then a mighty man from South Sudan, Duop Reath, landed a three and squared the match 60-all. The ever-competitive Joe Ingles drew a foul, went to the free-throw line and drained them both. And Australia led by two.
Then Chris Goulding got hot from downtown. He pulled the trigger on a fine jumping two-pointer before raining death from above with a massive three-pointer, right on the siren, to give Australia a 5-point lead at the last break.
The US hit back. But the longer the final stanza went and the longer Australia’s defence, headlined by Philadelphia 76ers man Mattise Thybulle, thwarted their attack with blocks and steals, the more Australia believed.
And Durant began to miss. And Patty Mills did not. And that was that for Team USA. Off to think again.
And if you, Australian sports fan, are looking for signs that Australia can break their Olympic basketball medal duck following the fourth-place in Rio – and knock over these superstar Americans for a third time – Tuesday’s fixture was it.
They will need luck, of course. They will need several things to go their way.
There can be no mistakes. Australia turned the ball over six times in the first half. They trailed 46-38. These things were not unrelated.
They must drain everything from outside. Ingles showed the way with three three-pointers. Goulding and Mills impressed from downtown.
And they must remain calm when America applies defensive pressure.
But they know that. And they believe. And they have good reason to.