Boomers channel Pop and pound the rock to take down U.S.

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Long a San Antonio Spurs staple is the concept of pounding the rock. Pounding the rock, again and again. The adage refers to process over fixation with result. Of sustained endeavour, regardless of the odds. If you trust the process, the outcome will eventually take care of itself.

Eventually, the walls of resistance inevitably crumble.

Perhaps there's much to be said about the approach that Gregg Popovich drills into his team: Intractable belief can beat bludgeoning talent. And it's something the Boomers have channelled.

If the two-game sample size against the best national team on the planet can be used to gauge the medal prospects of the Boomers, then their historic 98-94 victory over Team USA on Saturday will reverberate across the world.

The margin for error is zilch. Not when there is astonishing, relentless athleticism being rammed down your throat at every bad shot, every turnover. Not when you face a team that appears to have no real weakness. Not when they can create at will. Not when they have one of the world's greatest coaches masterminding every action.

There is another old adage: Talent trumps all. Of course, the Boomers counterpoint is will.

They have real belief that they can -- and should -- go for gold. That invariably will lead down a route that crosses paths with Team USA once again.

Before the four-game gauntlet against Canada and the USA, Boomers assistant coach Luc Longley told ESPN that the Boomers' greatest strength was likely their desire to medal -- the hurt of finishing fourth at the Rio Olympic Games, the resultant hunger and the core belief that this team was worthy of a place on the dais would drive their progress.

This spine-tingling win reveals that this goal was never a false conceit. That's because the Boomers kept pounding the rock.

In that vein, coach Andrej Lemanis has continually preached defence as the bedrock of this team's identity. And in that respect, the Boomers' display in Thursday's 102-86 Game 1 loss to the Americans was replaced by a hardened response.

This was a real grit-and-grind riposte.

Matthew Dellavedova was back to his rugged Cleveland Cavaliers self, physically hounding Donovan Mitchell at every turn. Jock Landale's activity was irrepressible, chasing down every offensive rebound opportunity. Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes combined for 13 rebounds. Nick Kay was scary good.

As a team, they chased, pushed and disrupted, limiting space. They were the aggressors, not content to sit back.

They fortified the defensive boards, a weakness from the other night. They still trailed 26-23 at the first-quarter break.

Yet despite a free-wheeling first quarter offensively in which both teams scored at will, you could feel the aggressive intent from the Boomers.

In the second quarter, Team USA amped up its defence with its athleticism, pushing the Boomers' actions out toward half-court, challenging their ability to create late in the shot clock, rather than churning through their motion. Out of the Boomers' first 10 made baskets, nine were assisted.

In response, the Boomers reciprocated. On one possession, Dellavedova ripped the ball away from Marcus Smart early in the second quarter, forcing the turnover.

Landale attacked the offensive glass and moved and shuffled on defence. His team defence over the past two games has been a huge improvement.

Teamwide, the rotations were purposeful and filled with zeal. There was a sequence in which Mitch Creek toggled seamlessly with Baynes on a switch, yielding no ground on the resultant box-out and snatching the defensive rebound. Kay's energy was infectious.

Australia's transition defence was a focus, with multiple Boomers running back after a missed shot, while one harassed the ball handler to muddy the waters.

Long-range sniping continues to be an issue, despite the apparent generational talent in outside shooting. The Boomers were 2-of-14 from deep at the half and finished 7-of-27.

To compensate, there has been a concerted effort to attack the rim. At the half, the Boomers had 26 points in the paint to USA's 10. By the end, they had battered Team USA with a 46-26 advantage.

Team USA chief protagonist Kemba Walker was sublime whenever he was in the game. In one sequence, Bogut rotated to the midrange and challenged a pull-up from the diminutive guard. Walker drilled the shot in his face. In another possession, Walker drilled a 3-pointer despite having Joe Ingles draped all over him.

In the third quarter, Walker jitterbugged his way into the teeth of the defence, drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line.

Shoulder shrug. There's not much you can do in those moments. Talent trumps all. You just keep pounding the rock.

Team USA hit tough shots -- including some shots the Boomers will live with. Some were rotational errors that led to 3-pointers. Again, shrug. It's hard to play a perfect game.

That the Boomers were able to match their opponents in defensive intensity during the third quarter set up the win. The consecutive 3s late in the final quarter -- first with Ingles' over Myles Turner, then with Patty Mills' banked, straight-on attempt -- were perhaps the capstones of an enterprising endeavour from the Boomers. From that point onward, a historic victory loomed.

The Boomers' focus was rightly upon navigating the choppy waters of finding an identity and crystallising game rotations over the past fortnight. Winning was nice -- and they should celebrate -- but the real thing starts next week. That's when it matters.

Their starting lineup for the Worlds has been unveiled as Dellavedova, Mills, Ingles, Landale and Baynes.

Baynes appears to be the preferred starting centre, with his scoring and beefy offence. He is able to lift to the 3-point arc as Landale concurrently dives to the rim. Baynes also was much better today in navigating defensive coverages and not sitting too deep in those actions. I still believe Bogut is the better fit to start.

Ingles was the Boomers' primary playmaker in the pick-and-roll and a disruptor on defence. He needs to replicate these sorts of performances for the Boomers to medal. Without belabouring the point, his struggles from the outside in the aggregate are to be monitored. Dellavedova still can't shoot.

Plagued by inconsistency throughout the four-game showcase, the Boomers revealed renewed vigour in effort and physicality, in movement and aggression, and attention to detail. A pattern has emerged whereby the Boomers have responded after a loss.

Of course, they won't have the benefit of do-overs and hindsight come Sept. 1. Canada is fast emerging as a hardened group, with talented shot-makers and a disciplined, frenzied defence, capable (as we've seen) of disrupting the Boomers and winning. The real thing starts soon.

For now, the Boomers, and basketball fans in Australia, should absolutely savour this moment.

Saturday's game started with us grappling with the question of whether talent trumps all -- or whether collective will can win the day. It's 1-1 so far.

Potentially, that question can be best answered in mid-September in a gold-medal playoff.