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Basketball: Unbeaten US survives Australia scare

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Rio 2016: No LeBron, No Problem for USA Basketball

Carmelo Anthony came to Team USA's rescue with a record-breaking effort on Wednesday as the defending Olympic basketball champions beat Australia 98-88 in a thrilling encounter to extend their overall winning streak to 20 games.

SEE MORE: Everything you need to know about the Summer Olympics

Trailing the Boomers 72-70 early in the fourth quarter, Anthony tied the game from inside the paint then hit two big three-pointers to put the U.S. ahead for good as they remained top of the Group A standings with a 3-0 record.

See the best photos from the 2016 Rio Olympics:

30 PHOTOS
Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
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Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania shoots over Marcus Vinicius Marquinhos of Brazil during a Men's preliminary round basketball game between Brazil and Lithuania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Segun Toriola of Nigeria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Koki Niwa of Japan on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 06: Bret Bonanni #10 of United States shoots the ball against Croatia during the Men's Water Polo Preliminary Round - Group B match between the United States of America and Croatia at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Laura Giombini of Italy (R) reacts during the Women's Beach Volleyball preliminary round Pool D match against Jamie Lynn Broder and Kristina Valjas of Canada on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Beach Volleyball Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Robert Gardos of Austria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Michael Phelps (L) of the United States leads Chad le Clos of South Africa in the Men's 200m Butterfly Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Shu-Ching Hsu of Chinese Taipei competes during the Women's 53kg Group A weightlifting contest on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 2 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
2016 Rio Olympics - Beach Volleyball - Women's Preliminary - Beach Volleyball Arena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 07/08/2016. Doaa Elghobashy (EGY) of Egypt and Kira Walkenhorst (GER) of Germany compete. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Lilly King of the United States celebrates winning gold in the Women's 100m Breaststroke Final on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Ruolin Chen and Huixia Liu of China compete in the Women's Diving Synchronised 10m Platform Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Ning Ding of China in action during the Womens Table Tennis Singles Final match against Li Xiaoxia of China at Rio Centro onn August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Axel Augis of France competes on the horizontal bar during the Men's Individual All-Around final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Linda Cerruti and Costanza Ferro of Italy compete in the Women's Duets Synchronised Swimming Free Routine Preliminary Round on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Jennifer Oeser of Germany competes in the Women's Heptathlon Long Jump on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Matthew Glaetzer of Australia competes in the Men's Sprint Qualifying on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Usain Bolt of Jamaica competes in the Men's 100 meter semifinal on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: An RS-X athlete is seen on the way back to the marina after the conclusion of racing on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Marina da Gloria on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Silver medalist Nia Ali (L) and gold medalist Brianna Rollins of the United States celebrate after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Russia compete during the ribbon rotation 1 in the group all-round qualification round at the at Rio Olympic Arena on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: The riders compete during the Men's semi final 2 on day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic BMX Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: Yauheni Karaliou of Belarus competes during the Diving Men's 10m Platform Preliminary on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring the winning penalty in the penalty shoot out during the Men's Football Final between Brazil and Germany at the Maracana Stadium on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: (EDITORS NOTE: Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image.) Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Women's Individual All Around Final on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Rio Olympic Arena on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: (L-R) Bronze medalist Kristi Castlin, gold medalist Brianna Rollins and silver medalist Nia Ali of the United States celebrate with American flags after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Kristin Armstrong hugs her son Lucas Armstrong Savola, 5, after she won the gold medal in the women's cycling road individual time trial at Rio 2016 on Wednesday, August 10, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Team Great Britain competes in the Women's Team Pursuit first round on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 15: Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dives over the finish line to win the gold medal in the Women's 400m Final on Day 10 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Anthony, a four-time Olympian and the Team USA leader, finished with a game-high 31 points to leapfrog David Robinson and LeBron James on the list of all-time leading scorers at the Olympics among American players.

Kyrie Irving, who was born in Melbourne and at one point considered playing for Australia, contributed 19 points to the U.S. cause, including a clutch three-pointer with 1:35 to play and two free throws in the dying seconds to ease frayed nerves.

"I don't think we played our best game but we pulled it out," Anthony told reporters, deflecting any credit for the win. "Tonight we came together as a team and guys stepped up at different points."

With a lineup of NBA all-stars and most valuable players bidding for a third straight gold medal, the U.S. might have expected little trouble from the 11th-ranked Australians, who have never set foot on the Olympic podium.

Unbeaten since the bronze medal game of the 2004 Athens Olympics, the streak came under threat almost from the opening tipoff as the Boomers forged a 54-49 halftime lead, leaving the whiff of an upset in the air.

IMPROVING STANDARDS

With five NBA players in their lineup, Australia refused to be intimidated by the mighty Americans, who have won gold medals at 14 of the 17 Olympics they have participated in, including the last two.

"We thought we could compete with these guys and in the first half we showed that," said Matthew Dellavedova, who helped the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA title in June. "We knew we could play with anyone coming in.

"There is no intimidation factor and there shouldn't be. We all play basketball and do the same thing, so we will focus on our next two pool games and go from there."

After blowout wins over China and Venezuela to open pool play, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said the Olympic tournament had now moved up a level for the Americans.

"For this group, that was the first real international game," said Krzyzewski, who will step down as U.S. coach after the Rio Games.

"The first two games we played, we were significantly better than those teams and this is the real world now. We beat a heck of a team tonight. They just played lights out basketball.

"This was a very good night for us."

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(Reporting by Steve Keating in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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