San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter and Brazil started off the Olympics with a perfect 1-0 record today by outlasting Australia, 75-71, lead by Spurs guard Patty Mills, who recently re-upped with San Antonio.
It came down to the last minute during the Group B matchup to decide the winner. While Australia looked sharp early, Brazil came out of the second half on fire.
With Brazil pushing the game out of reach with a 10-point advantage, it was Australia's David Anderson and Joe Ingles with some late heroics to get the Aussies back within reach.
Anderson hit a three to bring it within seven points. After Splitter missed a jump hook at the other end, Ingles took his turn with a perimeter shot. Anderson followed with another three and Ingles knocked down yet another to make it 69-64.
While Splitter did his best to end Australia's momentum, he was only able to momentarily end their run with a tip-in.
Shortly after, Mills ran the length of the floor with a full head of steam and finished with a layup. After an Ingles drive and a Leandro Barbosa charge, Australia turned their 10-point hole into a two point gap.
A Mills near-steal with seconds left lead to a foul with Marcelinho Huertas at the line with 5.2 seconds left. Unfortunately for Australia, they chose to foul Brazil's best clutch player, who knocked down both free throws. That was all it took to give his team the win.
Mills got off to a quick start, scoring six points in the first quarter and finishing with 12 at the half. It looks like Mills' end-to-end speed is going to give point guards some issues. With his speed, he lead his team on fast breaks, finished inside and dished to open players when the defense would try to collapse on him.
If Mills can start knocking down his three-pointers, that's when he'll really start to get opposing teams in trouble. Shooting one-of-nine behind the arch today did little to help the Aussies when the game was hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter. Still, Mills was impressive, leading all scorers with 18 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.
Splitter looked uncomfortable early on and made the game harder for himself by taking shots outside of his range and allowing defenders to move him away from the basket as he took the hook shot.
Splitter normally works very well with Huertas as the pair have run the pick-and-roll to perfection in the past. That wasn't there as much today. When Splitter would come up and screen and then slip to the basket, Huertas didn't find him there for the easy score as much as I'm accustomed to seeing. Although much of that could be due to Huertas having other options that haven't always been there, most notably Nene, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa.
He did have some bright spots though, finishing at the rim and getting fouled for a three-point play, getting a key tip-in late in the game, playing solid defense and rebounding the basketball.
In just over 25 minutes, Splitter finished with seven points and seven rebounds, but perhaps more importantly, a win.
While Australia had a tough opener in Brazil, it won't get any easier with silver medal-favorite Spain next on their schedule, while Brazil will face Luol Deng and Great Britain next. Both games will be on Tuesday.