AUSTRALIA’S Olympic men’s basketball campaign tipped off with a trio of wins, providing fans with more confidence the Boomers can medal at next week’s Tokyo Olympics. In a warm-up tournament in Las Vegas, the Boomers defeated Argentina, USA and Nigeria, with the Australian Opals set to hit the court on Saturday against USA.
AUSTRALIA (87) defeated ARGENTINA (84)
A Patty Mills buzzer-beating triple kick-started the Boomers’ Olympic preparations with a memorable three-point triumph over Argentina. Fittingly during NAIDOC Week and just after fellow Indigenous hero Ash Barty won Wimbledon, Mills was the saviour, draining a last second basket from beyond the arc courtesy of a sweet set play from big man Jock Landale. Mills finished with 17 points – four of 11 from long-range including the two last late daggers – four rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Fellow deadeye, Joe Ingles managed the 16 points – four of 11 from three-point ranges, three assists, two rebounds and two steals. Matisse Thybulle‘s defensive efforts were what caught the eye, producing three blocks and nailing all three long-range attempts on his way to 15 points, five rebounds and four steals. Aron Baynes (14 points, eight rebounds) was also strong at both ends. Dante Exum (seven points, three assists and two steals from 15 minutes) relieved with some key points in small minutes.
Luis Scola (25 points, eight rebounds) was the dominant scorer for Argentina in the loss, while Facundo Campazzo (12 points, five assists and two steals) and Luca Vildoza (11 points, two assists) also reached double-figure points.
AUSTRALIA (91) defeated USA (83)
Without a doubt the best win of the lead-up tournament was against Gold Medal favourites USA, as the world heavyweights took an early lead, before Australia roared back into it and took control to win in the second half. The United States led by nine points at half-time with Damian Lillard dominating and Baynes out with a knee injury. A stunning 19-6 run late in the third term – capped off by a Chris Goulding triple – turned it around for the Boomers to be leading by five at the main break and Mills did the rest with 10 points in five minutes to lead the Australian side to a memorable eight-point triumph.
“It was all about our defence,” Mills said after the win. “We understand that at the start of this campaign that for us to be really competitive and to achieve our goals we need to hang our hat on the defensive end especially against a team like the US.
“For us to take away their athleticism where they like to get out in transition to make easy baskets and dunks that was pretty impressive for our second game. “But we are not satisfied and we know we can still get a lot better and our focus is going to continue to be to hang our hat on defence for this entire campaign.”
Mills again topscored with 22 points, as well as four assists and two rebounds, whilst it was Ingles (17 points, four rebounds and three assists – and three triples) who worked well with Goulding (11 points and three triples) from beyond the arc. Thybulle was again a strong defender with 12 points, three assists, two rebounds and two blocks – including a memorable one of USA star Kevin Durant – while Nick Kay came close to a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes, and Landale had eight and seven in 17 minutes.
Lillard finished with 22 points – after 16 in the first half – and four rebounds, nailing six of 11 from long-range. Durant (17 points, four rebounds, two assist sand two blocks) also had four triples, while Bradley Beal (12 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Jayson Tatum (eight points, three rebounds and four assists) both held their own.
AUSTRALIA (108) defeated NIGERIA (69)
Completing the trifecta, Australia produced its most dominant win of the warm-up series with a massive 39-point victory over Nigeria. Despite both teams coming in undefeated after Nigeria equally shocked Argentina and USA, it was Australia that completely destroyed Nigeria, led by Goulding who was deadly from long-range. The Boomers rested Baynes, Mills, Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova for the game, and it was a bunch of talented NBL stars who stepped up in the huge victory.
“We’ve got a good system, I’ve been playing in it for a lot of years now and I’m pretty confident with where I can find my shots in it,” Goulding said post-game.
“I think we were locked in from the jump defensively. We had seen how they’d played their last two games, they’re a potent offensive team with a lot of athleticism and they can really shoot the ball. So we had to be keyed in on that.
“Then at the other end we had to play to our strengths by moving the ball and with man movement, and we were able to run up a pretty hefty international score so we are pretty happy with that.”
Goulding was stunning with seven from seven beyond the arc for a perfect 21 points, four assists and three rebounds, as second side Duop Reath (17 points, three rebounds and two assists), Nathan Sobey (15 points, four rebounds and five assists) and Landale (14 points, five rebound and two blocks) all stood out. The future of green and gold in Josh Giddey (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Josh Green (11 points, three steals) also impressive in the victory.
For Nigeria, Ogi Emegano and Josh Okogie both had 10 points, while Precious Achiuwa (Seven points, six rebounds) and Jahlil Okafor (seven points, five rebounds) hit the boards well in what was a disappointing performance for the losing side.
Picture credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images