Australia has bottled up all of their prior Olympic failures, according to NBA legend Patty Mills, and plans to let them go against the United States in their crucial basketball semifinal on Thursday.
The “Boomers,” world’s third-ranked team, have been attempting to reach the Olympic podium since the Melbourne Games in 1956, but have failed to succeed despite competing in the bronze medal match four times and despite having some of the best players in the world competing in the highest leagues.
Despite needing to overcome the three-time defending champions headed by Kevin Durant to keep on track, Mills of the San Antonio Spurs believes the time has come to halt the streak.
“We’re well experienced. We’ve been to this stage many a time and haven’t crossed the line. But we’ve bottled those experiences up, and I think we’re well prepared for this moment and for this stage to make the next step,” Mills said.
“There’s a togetherness and a camaraderie within the extended group and a focus that is sharp on what we’re trying to achieve here. And that collective unit together, it’s powerful. It’s a culture thing, it’s an Australian spirit thing, it’s doing it for the greater good, and we understand who we’re doing it for,” he added.
They may never have a better chance, as the United States has shown indications of weakness in the lead-up to the Olympics, losing two exhibition games, including a 91-83 setback to the Boomers.
Gregg Popovich’s team then lost to France in their opening game in Tokyo, their first loss at an Olympics since 2004, before rediscovering their stride and winning a spirited 95-83 victory over Spain to set up the Australia match.
The undefeated Boomers, on the other hand, have looked impressive, and thrashed Argentina 97-59 in their quarter-final, with Mills leading the way with 18 points and four assists.
Joe Ingles, who is competing in his fourth Olympics, stated that winning gold was the only thing that mattered.
“We’ve had one goal in mind, to win a gold medal and leave here with that, and this is a little bit of a stepping stone to what we want to achieve. We’ll rest up, recover and watch the film and we’re obviously well aware of who we’re against (USA). The biggest thing for us now is the recovery side of it,” said the Utah Jazz forward after the Argentina win.
Mills will face Popovich, his longtime San Antonio coach, in Thursday’s match, but friendships will be set aside.
“He’s obviously meant a great deal to me for a very long time, a decade. It’s fair to say he’s helped shape me to who I am today, on the court and off the court,” said Mills.
“When you get to this situation, and we’re both representing our country, which we’re both so passionate about, it’s a great opportunity. This is the Olympic Games and there’s no greater opportunity to represent your country than this,” he added.