RIO DE JANEIRO -- At least one member of Australia's traveling party believes it would be a mistake to give the early darlings of the men's basketball tournament zero shot at an upset Wednesday night when the Boomers take on the highly favored United States.
"It's always possible, mate," Australia assistant coach and former NBA championship-winning center Luc Longley said Monday after an impressive 95-80 win over Serbia moved the Americans' next opponent to a surprising 2-0 in Group A.
"There are no impossibilities in basketball."
Yet it should be stressed that Longley, like all of Australia's players, is realistic about the challenge ahead, even after their stirring victories over a top medal contender in France and a Serbian squad that finished second to the United States in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
The only thing Longley was prepared to guarantee about Wednesday night's game at the Carioca Arena 1 in Rio is that the Australians will try to make it as scrappy as possible, with Matthew Dellavedova leading that charge at point guard and physical big men Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes in the frontcourt.
"That should be the first thing we write on our whiteboard every game: 'Let's not be fun to play against,'" said Longley, who has moved into coaching after a playing career that featured three rings with the Chicago Bulls in the Michael Jordan era.
"I think coming into the tournament, everyone would have looked at us and said, 'We're not looking forward to that game.' That's certainly the way the players want it to be. It's our brand of basketball. It's really the only way we have of punching above our weight class."
The level of physicality in the matchup pitting Milwaukee's Dellavedova against his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving will naturally get a lot of attention in the buildup to tipoff, but Dellavedova also happens to be coming off what might be his finest offensive performance in a national team jersey: 23 points and 13 assists (with zero turnovers) against Serbia in support of Patty Mills' team-high 26 points.
This is the first time in Olympic men's play that Australia has managed a 2-0 start. In the quarterfinals of the 2012 Summer Games in London -- with Bogut unavailable because of injury -- Australia was typically feisty and made its presence felt, but ultimately couldn't prevent a 33-point defeat.
"It's the ultimate test," Bogut said of facing the United States, which will match him up against former teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green -- as well as Harrison Barnes -- for the first time since Bogut and Barnes moved on to the Dallas Mavericks in the wake of Golden State's acquisition of Kevin Durant.
"They're the best team in the world, best players in the world, so I think if we go out there with the right mindset and compete with them, win or lose, we'll be happy with that," Bogut continued. "If we go out there and we're intimidated by them and try and get our shoes signed before the game and a signed jersey, we're in the wrong mindset."
Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic, after watching Australia pull away late for another double-digit win on top of the Aussies' impressive 21-point rout of Tony Parker-led France, said the front-line trio of Bogut, Baynes and David Andersen is "second to none" in the whole tournament in terms of intensity.
"They plan 'man' basketball," said Serbia center Miroslav Raduljica, who scored a team-high 25 points Monday.
"Put a million dollars on it and you'd probably get a dollar back if you bet on 'em," Bogut said of Team USA. "So it's a great challenge for us. It really gets us in a mindset of seeing what we gotta do to make our offense better and our defense better."
Said Andersen, who played parts of three seasons in the NBA: "It's like a Hail Mary I suppose you'd call it. But we're gonna go out there and give it our all and try to shake up the world."