A new star arrived for the Australian Boomers but Patty Mills was once again the hero, making a three on the buzzer to beat Argentina in Las Vegas on Sunday.
The Boomers trailed early and were pushed to the limit by an Argentinian side led by 41-year-old big man Luis Scola (25 points, eight rebounds) but NBA debutante Matisse Thybulle (15 points, four steals, three blocks) starred for the Boomers with some athletic defensive plays before Mills (17 points) stepped up to hit the winning shot as time expired.
Mills’ three was similar to his shot to beat Russia at the 2012 Olympics as he inbounded the ball before getting it back for a shot, this time he came off a Jock Landale screen and shot from the right side than the middle of the floor back in 2012.
For Mills, it was yet another sign of how fitting the decision was to make him one of Australia’s flag-bearers, as the soon-to-be four-time Olympian has a deep history of standing tall for his country.
Boomers coach Brian Goorjian went with a trusted starting group in the first proper game since the FIBA World Cup in 2019 as Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Landale and Aron Baynes began the game.
Thybulle was among the first subs midway through the first term and he immediately made an impact with a fast-break dunk to notch his first points, followed by a three and an alley-oop dunk, the pass came from Ingles, on the quarter-time buzzer to have Boomers fans screaming for how to buy a number 22 Boomers jersey.
But the second term became a reality check for the Boomers as they fell behind to some brilliant post-scoring from the ageless Scola, who played in his nation’s gold medal win in 2004 and will notch Olympics number five in Tokyo.
His magic was passed on to his younger teammates as Luca Vildoza hit a half-court shot on half-time to extend their lead to 47-42.