An Australian side lacking NBA star centre Andrew Bogut came up short in its Olympic opener, falling to a Brazil team with four NBA standouts 75-71 on Sunday in round-robin Group B play.
Leandrinho Barbosa scored 16 points, Marcelinho Huertas 15 and Anderson Varejao 12 for the South Americans, who needed two free throws from Huertas with five seconds remaining to seal victory.
It was the sort of game where Bogut, a 7-foot-2 big man with the NBA Golden State Warriors, could have made a difference for the Boomers against Varejao and other large NBA rivals.
"He is a difference maker. He is a game changer," Australian coach Brett Brown said.
"You miss a major defensive weapon. He's among the top three to five centres in the world when he's healthy. The players we have are physical and mobile but they are not 7-foot-2."
Bogut suffered a broken left ankle in an NBA game last January and had been bothered by nagging right elbow and hand injuries for years before that.
Bogut did offer some words of encouragement from afar, posting the Twitter message: "Forget the last one, remember the next one."
Brazil played an up-tempo and physical style that tested the Aussies.
"It was a tough game. That's how it's going to be in the Olympics," Varejao said. "You can have a lot of ups and downs like we did. We knew what was going to happen, pushing, provocations. But when the game is like that I like that."
Patrick Mills, a guard who is an NBA teammate of Brazil's Tiago Splitter on the San Antonio Spurs, led the Aussies wth 20 points while Joe Ingles added 15 points and David Andersen contributed 14 for the Boomers, who next face Spain and confident say they can upset an NBA-filled team led by NBA star Pau Gasol.
"No question at all," Mills said. "We take a lot of positives from this game. It was good preparation for Spain. We're disappointed we got the loss but we still believe we can do something special."
Brazil led 36-35 at half-time and opened the third quarter with a 16-4 run, back-to-back driving layups by NBA big man Nene Hilario and Splitter capping the run to give their side a 52-39 edge, their biggest of the game.
But Australia scored the next eight points and battled to the finish in the fourth quarter, an Ingles bank shot with 29 seconds remaining pulling them within 73-71. A Mills foul after a failed steal attempt led to Huertas hitting the deciding free throws.
"Our guys showed great resolve," Brown said. "We didn't quit. We had some runs in us when the game was going the other way on us."