Canada Basketball v Australia Boomers
When: 5.30pm (AEST), Sunday 1 September
Where: Dongguan Basketball Center, Dongguan, China
Broadcast: Fox Sports More; Kayo Sports
In what has been one of the biggest build ups for a Boomers team ahead of a major tournament, it is now time for the real games to begin.
The quest for that elusive first ever medal begins in earnest tomorrow when Australia takes on a dangerous Canadian team in the first game of Group H play in Dongguan.
These two teams had a good look at each other two weeks ago in Perth and while there have been some minor personnel changes since then, there’s no doubt this is going to be one highly competitive contest.
The Boomers were forced to replace Jonah Bolden right after that two-game series against Canada and brought in two-time Olympian and four-time NBL Champion David Barlow. His ability to stretch the floor from the power forward position as well as be a strong presence defensively will give Australia depth at that position.
For Canada, the most frequent question asked lately has been ‘is Cory Joseph still going to join the team?’ The 8-year NBA veteran and 2014 Championship player was with the team in training camp and played against Nigeria, but missed their Australian tour.
He has now joined them in Dongguan along with Conor Morgan, while Oshae Brissett was lost to injury and Aaron Best and Duane Notice were cut from the final roster.
Where they’ve been
It’s clearly been a less than ideal preparation for the Boomers leading up to this point. After losing Bolden and Xavier Cooks, the team has gone through several lows and a few highs the past few weeks.
Since splitting their series with Canada, things couldn’t have gotten any better for the Boomers than beating Team USA in front of over 52,000 people last Saturday. This was the first time the Boomers had ever beaten a U.S. team and the first loss to any opponent for the American Men’s team since 2006.
The Boomers played their style the whole way, putting pressure on the ball, pushing when they could, and executing that flow offence to perfection utilising the passing ability of both Andrew Bogut and Joe Ingles.
Then Patty Mills did the rest as he poured in 30 points including several clutch buckets down the stretch as the Boomers created history.
“We’ve got good momentum coming from that USA game and we want to keep that against Canada,” Nick Kay said ahead of their final warm up game.
However, just 4 days later that same Boomers outfit, which moved up to 3rd in FIBA’s latest power rankings, fell to Germany 64-74 in their final game before the tournament. To make matters worse, Andrew Bogut left the floor in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
“At this point now, every game is crucial so we’ll go back, look at the film and it’s a good opportunity to learn from that,” Kay said post-game.
“Now we can use this stuff to grow and time to get some wins. Every game counts, every point counts. Let’s get a few wins in a row now.”
Germany is in the crossover group for the teams that advance from Group H, so the Boomers did not have everything on display and while the result matters not, the way the Boomers played against Germany has left a lot of room for improvement heading into the opening game tomorrow.
With just a 2-3 record in their warm up games, Andrej Lemanis’ men will need to find consistency if they are to advance from Group H.
— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) August 28, 2019
The Canadian team has also played three more games since facing the Boomers. They moved to Sydney from Perth where they took care of New Zealand across two games. The first was easier than the second, which required overtime to get the win, but they took a lot of confidence from that.
Nick Nurse’s men then took on Team USA in their final tune up and while neither team shot particularly well, it was a hard fought game with the Americans prevailing 84-68. Canada headed to Dongguan full of confidence in how they competed and finished their warm up schedule with a 4-3 record.
The addition of Joseph will only help, even if he has missed valuable on-court time with the rest of the team.
Players to Watch – Canada
Kevin Pangos: We saw what Pangos can do against Australia in Perth. He torched the Boomers for 18 points and 6 assists then hit some big shots again when they took on New Zealand. The fact is Pangos is a high-level combo guard who makes a living getting and creating buckets with FC Barcelona in the ACB and Euroleague. If he gets going tomorrow, it makes his team extremely tough to slow down.
? Cory Joseph — IN ✅
? Oshae Brissett — OUT ❌ (injury) pic.twitter.com/IvYQKj4cP6
— DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) August 29, 2019
Cory Joseph: While much has been made of Joseph’s absence in Australia, the fact is he is with the team now and changes their dynamic. More than just having a second NBA player, Joseph is an experienced veteran who has played on winning teams his whole career. He is quick, can shoot, can attack the rim, and is a plus defender. He and Pangos versus Dellavedova and Mills should be a great matchup.
Kyle Wiltjer: A big reason why the Canadians had success against the Boomers was the shooting of Wiltjer. The stretch big that spent a year with the Houston Rockets and now plies his trade in Turkey, has a quick release and the ability to break open a game. He makes for a tough matchup with the Boomers liking to start bigger at the four spot, so Lemanis will need to make sure his defensive schemes can contain that and limit the Canadians to one shot.
Khem Birch: The other current NBA player on Canada’s roster is going to play as an undersized five man in China. Birch, who stands at 6’9, showed mild improvement in his second season with the Orlando Magic, but will have his hands full with Aron Baynes, Andrew Bogut and at times Jock Landale. Birch was solid in the warm up games in Australia, but needs to finish more consistently to help his team. His strength is certainly his speed and athleticism so transition defence from the Boomers will be key to limit him and also keep him off the offensive glass.
Players to Watch – Australia
Patty Mills: The eyes of the world were on Mills after his performance against Team USA last Saturday. He was at his electric best as the focal point for the Boomers’ offence as he has been in past campaigns. Better than his 30 points at Marvel Stadium is the fact that his chemistry with his teammates is where it needs to be. Bogut, Ingles and Dellavedova know exactly how to find him, Baynes and Bogut know how to get him open, while Chris Goulding either plays well off Mills or draws defenders to give Mills more space to operate. Mills’ scoring is always needed for the green and gold, but against a tough defensive unit in Canada, it will be crucial.
? @Patty_Mills ?
— NBA (@NBA) August 24, 2019
Chris Goulding: Speaking of Goulding, this is now his third straight major FIBA tournament and his familiarity in the system and chemistry with the other Rio veterans is obvious. Goulding shone in the first game against Team USA with 19 points off the bench and while he was more of a decoy in the second game, it is clear Goulding has to be feared and respected by opposing defences. He is a true x-factor for this team and could easily turn this game on its head if he gets hot.
Joe Ingles: Sure Ingles seems an obvious choice, but it became clear just how important he is to the Boomers’ medal chances against Team USA. Ingles had been quiet offensively in the first three games, but in last Saturday’s win, he came to life. Ingles had the ball in his hands a lot and made the most of it with a game-high seven assists to go along with 15 points. When he is aggressive as well as creating for others, it makes Australia’s offence so much more potent and if he has turned the corner, then good things are ahead.
Andrew Bogut: All eyes will be on Bogut’s health heading into this game. While Basketball Australia confirmed on Friday that ‘following precautionary scans, Andrew Bogut has been cleared of any significant structural injury’, that doesn’t mean he’s 100% healthy and ready to go. It may not matter though as Bogut has shown in the past he can get up for big games when needed. He was battling the clock to be healthy for Rio following a knee injury sustained in the NBA Finals and managed to dominate the early rounds. His two-way game is so important for this team, and coming off the bench, he can often ignite the team when they are in need of a boost. If Bogut isn’t at full strength, Landale and Kay will need to step up.
The X-Factors: The Canadians have plenty of offensive firepower but it’s their other new addition who could be key to their success. Conor Morgan gives Nurse another big body to throw at the Boomers. Morgan, who played with the Southland Sharks of the NZ NBL last year before moving to play in Spain, is a solid rebounder, a good passer and has legitimate three-point range, so could also be someone Nurse turns to if he needs to spread the floor and keep Australia’s bigs out of the paint.
For the Boomers, their wild card off the bench is Mitch Creek. His ability to defend all positions, move the ball to the right spots within the half court offence but then attack in transition makes him an exciting player to watch any time he’s in the green and gold. Creek will be needed to play solid minutes across the three and four spots and Lemanis has never been afraid to deploy Creek to mix things up.
While the Canadians got the better of the Boomers in Perth, they have their own challenges in terms of integrating two new players. That’s a luxury that may be difficult to pull off in such a short period of time with no more warm up games.
The Boomers, despite their hiccup against Germany, will still be riding high from their win over Team USA and if they can keep the ball zipping like it was that day, as well as maintain their defensive pressure and consistently execute their pick and roll coverages, then they should have too much talent for Canada to handle.
This game will be tough, but the Boomers will go in favourites for a reason. Australia by 9 points.