There might never have been someone more passionate about playing for his country than Patty Mills and it was only fitting he came up huge as the Australian Boomers made history beating USA Basketball 98-94 on Saturday at Marvel Stadium.
Forgetting all the outside noise surrounding the series bringing USA Basketball to Melbourne to play the Boomers, on the back of a spectacular Thursday night where the United States prevailed 102-86 in front of 51,218 fans, Saturday eclipsed that in every facet.
The crowd was bigger with 52,079 and it turned out to be a historic afternoon for Australian Basketball with the Boomers beating USA for the first time ever by four points.
The USA had not lost a competitive hit out since the semi finals of the 2006 FIBA World Championships to Greece and had amassed 66 straight wins since, until Saturday afternoon in Melbourne.
The United States had a 51-1 record in exhibition matches ever as well but the Boomers handed them their second loss on Saturday and did so in remarkable fashion with Mills leading the way.
Mills produced a remarkable fourth quarter with 13 points on his way to 30 for the game as Australia made history with the four-point victory ahead of now leaving for China to go to the FIBA World Cup on Monday.
Not that a historic win over the USA needed to be more special, but the fact that Boomers stalwarts Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Andrew Bogut played such a big part in the win capped it off nicely.
Mills ended with 30 points and three assists including going 4/10 from deep and going on a stunning run during the fourth quarter to ice the win.
Bogut produced 16 points, nine rebounds and four rebounds in less than 20 minutes of court time while Ingles delivered 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Aron Baynes added 13 points and four rebounds for Australia, Jock Landale eight points and seven boards, and Nick Kay seven points and three rebounds.
It will be fascinating to see now how the USA reacts to the loss with a game to come on Monday in Sydney against Canada ahead of the FIBA World Cup in China starting next weekend.
Kemba Walker might have come off the bench for USA but still top-scored with 22 points, four rebounds and two assists while Harrison Barnes finished with 20 points and six boards including hitting 3/5 from deep.
Donovan Mitchell also had 12 points for the Americans, Derrick White eight points and three rebounds before leaving the game after face planting the floor when tripping over, Jaylen Brown eight points and Marcus Smart seven points and three assists.
Even with USA scoring the game’s first five points and leading 8-2 early, this did appear a composed Boomers outfit ready for the occasion and the challenge of making history.
A couple of strong put backs from Jock Landale and Aron Baynes showed Australia’s intentions as did a Baynes alley-oop finish as Joe Ingles continued to dish out the dimes.
Kemba Walker came on and scored seven quick points for USA but the Boomers were in touch only trailing by three after one.
Australia took the lead early in the second term with four quick Ingles points and even though Derrick White gave USA a 49-48 half-time lead, the Boomers were right in the contest.
The United States did threaten to pull away in the third term when up seven after three free-throws from Walker, and two more from Harrison Barnes to make it nine. But Andrew Bogut steadied Australia and by three quarter-time, it was in fact Australia leading 78-76.
History was there for the making and enter Patty Mills. There might have been people as passionate about representing their country before, but nobody more so than Mills and he showed all of that pride in a remarkable fourth quarter.
He hit a go-ahead triple with 6:30 remaining before nailing another with three minutes to go when he banked it in to put Australia up 91-87.
He then hit a mid-range jumper to keep Australia up four and then got to the rack for a layup. When he hit another jumper with a minute remaining, the Boomers led 97-91 and the win was becoming real.
The USA got back within three with a Donovan Mitchell three, but then had some rushed possessions and wouldn’t score again with Mills icing the 98-94 win at the foul line.
WORLD CUP EXHIBITION GAME
AUSTRALIAN BOOMERS 98 (Patty Mills 30, Andrew Bogut 16, Joe Ingles 15)
USA BASKETBALL 94 (Kemba Walker 22, Harrison Barnes 20, Donovan Mitchell 12)