That sure was deflating.
The entire Australian basketball community was on edge in the lead up to what was, without any doubt, the biggest game in the history of the senior men's national team. Patty Mills and the Boomers had a semifinals matchup with Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, and an entire nation had warranted hope heading into it.
That hope became stronger as the Boomers came out to an ideal start, until the USA showed why, despite not drawing the same mixture of fear and reverence, being the most talented team matters.
The result was ugly for the Boomers; a 97-78 loss that lays to rest much of the senior core's chase for Olympic gold, and sets up a bronze medal game against the loser of France vs. Slovenia.
Here are our takeaways from what was a heart-wrenching Boomers defeat.
The Boomers' first 15 minutes was terrific
Australia couldn't have asked for a better start to their semifinals matchup.
Their defence was on-point, running the USA off the three-point line, rotating with intensity, and forcing tough shots; all while they got an early boost from Joe Ingles, who hit a pair of three-pointers early. That was good for a 24-18 Boomers lead at the end of the opening period, and their rhythm didn't end there.
Chris Goulding and Danté Exum stepped up in a big way to start the second quarter, and the Boomers were in control. An Exum to Jock Landale alley-oop extended the Boomers' lead to 41-26, forcing a Gregg Popovich timeout with the USA on the ropes.
It was all downhill from there
As soon as Team USA got comfortable and played more freely, it was seemingly over for the Boomers.
The Americans' ball movement picked up, and they made the most of a sloppy Boomers side to get easy points in transition. They turned that 15-point deficit midway through the second period, into a 19-point lead by the end of the third quarter; the USA got hot, began to flow, and it was compounded by Australia not taking care of the ball on the other end of the floor.
Then, there was the increased defensive pressure from Team USA, who gave the Boomers a taste of their own medicine by junking things up and not allowing the Australians to easily get into any of their sets. A lot of credit should also go to Jrue Holiday, who made life extremely difficult for Patty Mills, holding the Boomers' captain to 5-of-14 from the field.
What began as a tight matchup between two teams that aren't too far apart, became an ugly game for Australia, with the Americans looking like the Team USA of old.
What happened to that Boomers defence?
There we glimpses of issues early on -- a few line drives to the rim by Team USA in the first quarter wasn't ideal -- but, largely, Australia's defence in the first period was at the impressive level we've seen all tournament.
The Boomers did a good job being aggressive guarding on-balls, rotating with a heap of intent, and closed out extremely hard on guys at the three-point line.
Come the third quarter, and that was seemingly out the window. The intensity wasn't there, Team USA was able to play four-on-three a whole lot thanks to them using a slipping Bam Adebayo as a release valve as the Boomers hedged hard on screens, and they were just getting wide open three-pointers.
Defence was the Boomers' identity up to this point, but it escaped them in a fatal way in this one.
Even Brian Goorjian, arguably the best coach Australia's ever seen, isn't immune from criticism.
The crucial stretch in this game was to begin the third quarter. Holiday hit a pair of layups, before Durant hit back-to-back jumpers, with Team USA going on a 17-5 run to start the period. That came after they went on a scoring stretch to end the second, so it was clear they were starting to feel it. We didn't see a timeout until after the five-minute mark; ordinarily, one would imagine we would see that after the USA went on a 12-0 run to begin the quarter.
It was such an important stretch in the game, and was the beginning of the banging of the nail in the coffin. Andrew Bogut mentioned on the broadcast that a quick timeout, even after the USA began the quarter with a 4-0 run, would be useful, but we didn't get close to that. It didn't lose Australia the game, but it put them in a mighty hole.
Then, there's the question regarding Matthew Dellavedova's presence on the court. History and legacy matters, but with Exum and Matisse Thybulle at Australia's disposal, Dellavedova didn't need to be out on the floor. It's tough because of his role in the program over the years, but, in a do-or-die game, there has to be the presence of mind to recognise a net negative and amend it.
That didn't happen, and it capped the Boomers' ceiling.
Kevin Durant is the greatest scorer in the universe
We already mentioned how impressive the Boomers' defence was to begin the game. The one person it didn't matter to was Durant, who did exactly what he wanted out there.
This is more a note of appreciation than any sort of analysis. No matter what defence he's presented with -- and the Goorjian-led, junky schemes are no joke -- Durant was able to get to his spots, and hit tough-as-hell shots with consistency. He kept the scoreboard ticking for the USA early on, which kept them within striking distance ahead of their big second quarter run.
Durant finished with 23 points, and remains Team USA's best and most consistent player.