It’s hard to imagine it wasn’t the game of the FIBA World Cup to date as the Australian Boomers made history beating France in a stunning 100-98 contest to see them remain unbeaten heading into the quarter finals.
The superstars on either side came out to play with top spot in the group up for grabs and the knowledge that by finishing in first place heading into the quarter finals, that would avoid a likely cut-throat match up with the USA.
With both teams undefeated so far in the tournament the stage was set for quite the contest too with Australia having beaten Canada, Senegal, Lithuania and Dominican Republic while France had defeated Germany, Jordan, Dominican Republic and Lithuania.
Neither team had a shortage of superstars either and they all stood tall to produce what is likely the game of the FIBA World Cup so far with each nation throwing everything at a win that would likely strengthen their medal hopes.
France threatened to run away with the contest leading 70-61 late in the third quarter.
But the Boomers responded and with Aron Baynes knocking down a stunning five three-pointers and being a monster defensively and Patty Mills knocking down another 30 points and Joe Ingles delivering another stunning all-round game, the Boomers won a nail-biter by two points despite a combined 57 points from Evan Fournier and Nando De Colo.
The win means the Boomers finish on top of the group to now set up a quarter-final match up with the Czech Republic, who pulled a bit of a surprise by advancing ahead of both Greece and Brazil.
That means that should Australia beat Czech Republic their semi-final will be against the winner of Spain or Poland and if they bump into the USA, it won’t be until a potential gold medal match.
The Boomers have now won five matches in-a-row at a FIBA World Cup for the first time ever as they continue to remain on track for that elusive first medal.
It was a top quality performance from both teams with Australia finishing up shooting 34/59 from the field at 58 per cent along with 13/27 from three-point range at 48 per cent and 19/24 at 79 per cent from the line.
Meanwhile, France shot at 37/65 from the floor at 57 per cent and 7/17 at 41 per from deep along with 17/19 at 90 per cent from the charity stripe.
Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis would have again been concerned with the 14 turnovers but Australia did outrebound France by seven and held them to just two offensive boards.
Patty Mills was brilliant for the Boomers scoring 30 more points but Aron Baynes was a beast inside and out. He finished with 21 points and five rebounds while hitting 5/6 from beyond the arc while drawing three critical charges.
Joe Ingles was tremendous again for 23 points while Mitch Creek scored eight points to go with three rebounds and Andrew Bogut finished with seven points and six boards, Matthew Dellavedova six points and nine assists, and Jock Landale five points, four rebounds and three assists.
Evan Fournier looked unstoppable at times for France with the Orlando Magic NBA star finishing with 31 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Nando De Colo was also tremendous with 26 points while Nicolas Batum finished with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists. Andrew Albicy contributed nine points, Rudy Gobert eight points and six assists, and Frank Ntilikina seven points and five rebounds.
From start to finish it was likely the game of the FIBA World Cup to date and it started with a high quality first quarter with France finishing leading 24-23 despite a strong offensive board and putback on the buzzer from Mitch Creek.
Andrew Bogut put Australia on top to start the second period but the lead continued to fluctuate and it was only fitting scores were locked at 46-apiece at the main break.
France dominated much of the third quarter and threatened to blow the game open on a couple of occasions including leading by nine with three minutes to go after an emphatic finish from Rudy Gobert.
But Joe Ingles was warming up and hit a step back three before Mills knocked one down from downtown too and suddenly the margin was again just three. Bogut then blocked a Nando De Colo drive but by three quarter-time, France still led 75-71.
The game was always leading to a dramatic finish. Baynes was on fire from deep to start the quarter to make the margin just one before he drew a charge on Frank Ntilikina. He then made a hook shot up the other end to put the Boomers up with seven minutes to go.
Ingles then stretched the lead to three and let Utah Jazz teammate Gobert know all about it.
After a timeout, Creek put Australia up five with a three-point play and Bogut maintained the three-point edge with a bucket inside.
However, Fournier tied scores up when he hit from beyond the arc and then after a Boomers turnover, De Colo put France up two. Baynes, though, responded with a triple before Andrew Albicy did the same up the other end.
Mills tied scores up with a pair of free-throws before Baynes drew another charge down low, this time on Gobert. The teams then traded free-throws before Ingles scored inside to put Australia up 96-94 with a minute to play.
De Colo responded for France before Dellavedova converted both at the stripe. De Colo tied scores again before Dellavedova drove hard and got fouled, making one to have the Boomers leading 99-98.
Mills pulled off the steal on the inbounds pass from France and then his throwback under the rim went to a teammate and the Boomers sealed the deal.
FIBA WORLD CUP – SECOND ROUND
AUSTRALIA 100 (Patty Mills 30, Joe Ingles 23, Aron Baynes 21)
FRANCE 98 (Evan Fournier 31, Nando De Colo 26, Nicolas Batum 13)