Starting Five: Boomers Advance, NZ Stay Alive, USA Look Shaky

Starting Five: Boomers Advance, NZ Stay Alive, USA Look Shaky

Five thoughts on a wild Day Four of the FIBA World Cup from NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria.

 

BOOMERS ADVANCE! BUT…

A win’s a win – and the Boomers are now through to the second round of the World Cup – but there was not a lot that was convincing about Australia’s 81-68 victory over Senegal on Tuesday night.

In what really should have been a demolition job, the Boomers only managed to pull away in the game’s final minutes.

Turnovers and Senegalese offensive rebounds gave the Aussies plenty of headaches but what was surely most concerning for head coach Andrej Lemanis was the lack of urgency shown by his squad for large chunks of the game.

Yes, they got the win. And yes, Senegal, like all teams at the World Cup, are to be respected. But instead of overpowering their less-talented opponents with suffocating defensive pressure and dominant work on the glass, the Boomers allowed Senegal to dictate much of the game’s terms, especially during the opening half.

“They did a good job of getting the game into the tempo that suited them and we didn’t get into some of the stuff that we needed to in order to get the game into a tempo that we liked,” Lemanis commented postgame.

The Boomers were often reactive at the defensive end and were regularly out-hustled on the defensive glass, where Senegal pulled down 13 offensive boards. The Aussies were also pretty careless with the ball l, throwing 16 turnovers – an ongoing issue that also plagued them on Sunday.

All of which, to my eye, was the result of a distinct lack of urgency from the green and gold. And, to be honest, it’s a problem that has now bobbed up twice already at this World Cup.

The Boomers played with great energy early in their win over Canada but when they looked to have the game in hand, the foot came off the gas. On Tuesday that lack of urgency was an issue right from the opening tip.

Addressing the media postgame, Lemanis and star swingman Joe Ingles both spoke with great respect about Senegal and the “unique challenges” their roster presents.

But in a tournament where point differential matters and opportunities to rest star players are golden, the truth is the Boomers really should’ve wiped the floor with Senegal.

Lithuania did. They beat them by 54 points! Other medal contenders like Serbia, Italy and Spain have all ruthlessly put the sword to lesser opponents across the opening few of days.

The good news: the Boomers got the win, they remain undefeated and they’re assured of advancing to the second round. All that and they’ve still got plenty of room for improvement.

 

SLO-MO STUFFS THE STAT-SHEET

Joe Ingles was just one assist shy of recording the first triple-double in FIBA World Cup history on Tuesday night.

The Utah Jazz swingman was easily Australia’s best player in the win, recording 17 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.

 

 

Ingles was lights out from long range (splashing 4-of-6 triples), scooped up defensive boards and threw a bunch of gorgeous passes, including a number of well-timed lobs to Aron Baynes and Andrew Bogut.

The Boomers coaching staff made an important adjustment during the team’s preparation when they shifted Ingles into more of a play-making role. Since then, ‘Slo-Mo Joe’ has been outstanding at initiating offensive actions and has struck the perfect balance between looking to score and making plays for others.

In typical Ingles fashion though, the down-to-earth NBA star wasn’t fussed about his stat-line when asked about it after the game.

“I didn’t know about [the record] and even though I do know now, it still doesn’t really bother me,” he said.

“The only goal today was to win the game. We just wanted to keep getting better, keep moving forward and get a good win.”

 

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

The frustrating thing about Senegal keeping things close on Tuesday was missing the opportunities a big Boomers win would have presented.

Firstly, any chance a medal-contending squad can get to limit the minutes of their key guys during a tournament like this is a valuable opportunity.

In their massive win over Senegal, for example, no Lithuanian played more than 21 minutes. Serbia has been able to limit every one of their guys to less than 23 minutes in each of their games thus far.

The Boomers, on the other hand, have now been forced to play a number of their studs major minutes across the their first two games. Ingles and Mills both clocked 30+ minutes in each game while Dellavedova played 30 last night after notching up 28 on Sunday. These guys will carry a massive load for the Aussies moving forward and, while all three are experts at managing their bodies, that extra load may eventually come into play.

 

 

The other missed opportunity was the chance to get some solid run into the guys at the end of the bench.

Nathan Sobey and Cam Gliddon both picked up DNP-CDs against Senegal (!), David Barlow only hit the floor for the game’s final possession while Mitch Creek again saw less than 10 minutes of action. Had the starters been able to establish a sizeable lead earlier in the game, these guys all would’ve got more burn – something that would’ve helped grow their confidence and further boosted morale across the entire group.

Of course, there’s nothing to suggest that morale is, or ever will become, any kind of issue for these Boomers. But everyone likes to play and it definitely would’ve helped those boys to get more of a run.

 

USA SURVIVE AND ADVANCE… FOR NOW

I’m sorry, this USA squad ain’t winning this tournament.

The United States played a get-out-of-jail free card on Tuesday as they squeezed past Turkey 93-92 in overtime.

How many more of those do they have up their collective sleeve?

The Turks were left heartbroken after missing four straight free throws inside the final ten seconds of overtime, essentially gifting the U.S. a chance to win the game.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton was happy to accept, sinking two freebies with 2.1 seconds remaining to steal the win.

 

 

“That really hurts,” Turkish star Furkan Korkmaz (16 points) stated postgame.

“The game was in our hands, not their hands. But at the end of the day we lost. It doesn’t matter how by many points.”

As for Team USA, I just can’t see this squad winning the World Cup. They are still, to use Coach Pop’s term, “discombobulated” at the offensive end (Turkey’s zone gave them fits) and their frontline just isn’t good, deep or tough enough to handle what lies ahead.

As I wrote last week, this Turkish team is sneaky good. They really should have won that game. But Team USA are going to face even tougher opposition when they come up against the likes of France, Spain, Australia, Lithuania and, of course, Serbia as the tournament rolls on.

I can’t see them taking home the gold. This thing is WIDE open.

 

TALL BLACKS KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE

The New Zealand Tall Blacks did their home country proud on Tuesday with a stirring 93-83 victory over Montenegro.

With their World Cup campaign on the line, the Tall Blacks rose to the occasion against a quality opponent that featured NBA All-Star Nikola Vucevic (15 points, 9 rebounds).

The main man for the Tall Blacks was, of course, Corey Webster who absolutely sizzled in this one, finishing with a game-high 25 points on 6-of-8 shooting from downtown. The New Zealand Breakers star also chimed in with 6 rebounds and an equal game-high 7 assists as he torched Montenegro with his dynamic offensive game.

The Tall Blacks will now play Greece on Thursday night with a very simple equation in front of them. If they notch up a win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and his crew they will advance to the World Cup’s second round. If they lose, they won’t.

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