After suffering a heartbreaking semi-final defeat against the United States, Mills carried the Aussies to a 107-93 victory against Slovenia in the bronze medal play-off to secure Australia’s first-ever Olympic men’s basketball medal.
The 33-year-old saved his best for when it mattered most - scoring a mind-boggling 42 points and nine assists in a performance that will go down in Olympic basketball history.
Speaking from hotel quarantine in Sydney in his first post-Olympics interview, Mills relived his record-setting display and opened up on what was going through his mind during the match.
“To be honest I don’t know if I’ve worked out how to express exactly what I was feeling on the court that night,” Mills said.
“It was a defining moment for me and with a medal up for grabs and being at a point which I had previously experienced two times before I knew I had to take control.
“After playing so much basketball up to that point, the tank was empty but I just had this drive to keep going and push myself to whatever level it took to win.”
Despite a slow start to the match, hitting two buckets from six attempts, Mills caught fire in the second period scoring at will from all around the court.
The point guard was just as unstoppable after the half-time interval and revealed a crucial moment which gave him the belief that the Boomers were finally going to break through for a medal.
“Late in the third quarter I made a shot driving left and then soon after scored another with a step back which forced Slovenia to take a timeout,” Mills said.
“There was something about that moment for me, even though there was still so much time left on the clock, I had a sense that no matter what was to come our way that I was going to win this game for my team.
“Although I would never say that out loud to my teammates, I just knew in my head I was going to do something special
“It’s hard to describe, but even though Slovenia would end up going on a bit of a scoring run after that time out, I felt in that moment that it was all going to be ok because of how I was feeling on the court. That I was going to help us pull it off.”
And that is exactly what the proud Torres Strait Islander would do, scoring two clutch buckets in the final quarter as Australia clung on for the victory.
An emotional Mills embraced long-time Boomers teammate Joe Ingles after the final whistle with photographers capturing the iconic moment.
“So many different feelings hit me as soon as I heard the final buzzer,” he said.
“Looking back on the photo of Joe (Ingles) and myself there is so much to unpack from that particular moment for me.
“Joe and I have been on this journey together, experiencing all the ups and downs, so that moments we shared on the court was for me a release of all the tension after everything we had been through.
“That was a very special moment for me.”