It had always loomed as Australia’s true test early in the FIBA World Cup to see where they stood and the Boomers came up trumps leading virtually all the way to beat Lithuania 87-82 to end up topping Group H.
Coming off wins there were expected to open the World Cup for 2019 against Canada and Senegal, the Boomers came up against a Lithuanian team also searching for a medal in China while representing a nation that lives and breathes basketball.
With top spot in Group H on the line while both teams had already qualified to move into the second round, there was plenty to like from the performance of the Boomers from start to finish.
Australia did lead by as much as 15 points in the first half but what made the win all the more impressive was withstanding the surge from Lithuania in the second half and still win by five points.
Despite being on top much of the game, Lithuania made an impressive run in the fourth quarter. But the Boomers responded with Patty Mills and Aron Baynes leading the way to secure the win.
Lithuania opened up scoring the first four points before Australia got on the board with a triple from Patty Mills. Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova and then Jock Landale also scored to give the Boomers a 9-0 run.
Dellavedova and Baynes then knocked down triples and suddenly Australia led 15-6 with a 15-2 run on the way to quarter-time. By the end of one, Australia still led 27-19 with Ingles at the forefront of it all.
Lithuania did get back to within two early in the second term leading to an Andrej Lemanis timeout. Immediately out of that, Dellavedova found Baynes for a flush and then when the big man knocked down a triple, the Boomers were back up 10.
The margin did grow to as much as 15 before half-time when Landale knocked down his second three of the quarter. The Boomers were still on top by 11 at half-time.
Baynes continued to be the man for Australia to start the second half knocking down yet another triple to keep the lead at nine but Lithuania was starting to warm up.
The Boomers continued to respond to every challenge, though, and by three quarter-time were up 68-60 on the back of seven points in the third term from Mills.
Lithuania were never going to go down without a fight and just over two minutes into the fourth quarter and they had closed the gap to one. They then took the lead at 69-68 on a Lukas Lekavicius having hit the first nine points of the quarter.
They grew their lead further thanks to Marius Grigonis but it was always set for a grandstand finish.
Baynes was a man possessed all night for the Boomers and when Ingles gained a steal and found him inside, he finished to put Australia back up with 3:30 left. Mills free-throws regained the lead soon after but scores were tied when Mills hit a jumper.
Nick Kay then hit two free-throws to put Australia up four and then a Mills triple saw the Boomers up five, and that was enough to secure the win.
FIBA WORLD CUP – GROUP PHASE
AUSTRALIA 87 (Patty Mills 23, Aron Baynes 21, Nick Kay 11)
LITHUANIA 82 (Marius Grigonis 19, Lukas Lekavicius 15, Domantas Sabonis 12)