The Boomers have begun their charge towards the 2016 Rio Olympics, downing New Zealand by 12 points in their opening qualifying clash on Saturday.
NBA stars Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova and Cameron Bairstow all got a run in Australia’s 71-59 win, giving the 15,062 fans at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena plenty to cheer about.
Not since the 2000 Sydney Olympics has Australia hosted a bigger basketball crowd.
And not many games come bigger for the Boomers, who only need to win – or at least not lose by more than 11 points – in the second-leg of the Oceania series in Wellington on Tuesday to book a spot at Rio.
Despite having only joined the squad on Monday after answering a late call to replace the injured Dante Exum, Mills proved crucial in green and gold with 17 points, as did David Andersen.
Point guard Dellavedova laid on 15 points and five rebounds, showing no signs of fatigue after a gruelling NBA playoff series for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bogut, fresh from his championship-winning campaign with the Golden State Warriors, looked free from the soreness that limited his preparations.
He played 21 minutes, adding four points – including a crowd-pleasing dunk on the run in the second quarter.
Cam Gliddon, a late call-up after guard Damian Martin succumbed to a calf injury, was the only player not to get time on court.
New Zealand’s Corey Webster had a game-high 22 points – their only player to make double figures.
The Boomers, who lost three of their four warm-up games in Europe late last month, started off somewhat slowly to trail 16-12 at quarter time.
They bounced back in the second with 22 points to the Tall Blacks’ 10.
Paul Henare’s men, though, kept in touch after the main break – winning the third quarter to close the gap to just four points.
It remained tight for the rest of the game, and nerve-wrecking with New Zealand even briefly stealing the lead after back-to-back three-pointers.
Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis said the game was as expected – physical, scrappy and a grind.
“I thought we did a good job of maintaining our intensity and our commitment to the work that’s required at the defensive end,” he said.
“We were able to hold down a good three-point shooting team to a low three-point shooting percentage and we only going gave up six offensive rebounds, which is key when you’re competing against a team like that.
“That’s going to give us a chance to be successful in this series.”
Lemanis admitted the Tall Blacks, at times, disrupted their rhythm.
But, with the help of the vocal crowd and fresh legs, found a way back.
Despite the loss, Henare said it was a great occasion for basketball in Australasia.
“It was good to be a part of that,” he said.
“For us, though, it’s only half-time and we’re down 12.
“That was my message to the guys and that’s how we have to look at the series.
“I know they’re champing at the bit to get home and try and close this championship out in Wellington.”