PERTH Wildcats captain Damian Martin enjoyed a brief cameo as Australia’s date with the Dream Team nearly turned into a nightmare for the US at the Rio Olympics this morning.
The Boomers pushed the tournament favourites to the brink in a 98 – 88 loss but it was Martin’s defensive work on NBA superstar Kevin Durant that turned heads.
Martin’s brief cameo came late in the second quarter when he entered the game for Dellavedova and was tasked with defending Kyle Lowry.
Lowry was held scoreless during that period and the Melville resident also managed to strip Kevin Durant of the ball, ultimately resulting in a trip to the free throw line for Mills after he was fouled on the fastbreak.
Even Martin’s wife Brittany could not contain her pride on Twitter.
— Brittany Martin (@bip_morgan) August 10, 2016
The final score was not a true reflection of just how close the contest was, Australia trailing by just five points late in the fourth quarter before it was forced to foul repeatedly to try and turn around the deficit.
The Boomers went basket for basket with the US throughout the game and if not for a long range shooting clinic from superstar Carmelo Anthony may well have caused one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.
Anthony scored America’s first nine points and when the Boomers took a 72 – 70 lead early in the fourth he put the US on his back, levelling the score with a layup before pouring in four triples.
Australia kept in touch through guards Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova but ultimately the pair could not match the late fire power of Anthony and Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavalier contributing 14 fourth quarter points, including five from the free throw line in the last minute to effectively ice the game.
Anthony finished with 31 points and eight rebounds, shooting nine of 15 from three point range.
The crisp passing evident in Australia’s crushing victories over France and Serbia was again on display, the Boomers effectively identifying and capitalising on mismatches throughout the game to register 23 assists – 11 to Dellavedova.
Four Australians hit double digit points but it was Mills that lead the way with 30 points, including five triples.
Australia led by as many as seven points midway through the second quarter and held a two point lead early in the fourth but repeatedly let the US off the hook with turnovers, often as a result of sloppy handling. The Boomers finished the game with 16 giveaways to America’s nine.
Australia’s next game is against China at 1.15am on Saturday morning.