Starting Five: NBL Reps Impressing, Bring on France

Starting Five: NBL Reps Impressing, Bring on France

Five thoughts on the Australian Boomers’ 82-76 win over the Dominican Republic at the FIBA World Cup from NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria.

 

JOB DONE

Jock Landale sat in front of the media after Australia’s win over the Dominican Republic on Saturday night and, just like he’d done in the fourth quarter, he shot straight.

“We all know it was just an okay performance,” the Boomers forward said.

“We’ve got stuff to build on, but I think we’ll be ready when the time comes.”

That pretty much wrapped it up. The Aussies got the job done on Saturday, continuing their unbeaten run through the 2019 World Cup by eeking out a narrow win over a desperate opponent. It’s a victory which, coupled with Lithuania’s controversial loss to France, guaranteed them a spot in the Quarter-Finals.

With the Dominicans playing for their World Cup survival, the Aussies struggled to fully gain control but eventually pulled away late to pocket a six-point win.

They moved the ball exquisitely at times, shot it pretty well throughout, dominated on the boards and, defensively, limited the Dominicans to just 3 made three-point field goals.

All of that is a recipe for success. However an inability to contain penetration and some sloppiness with the ball (16 turnovers) meant the Boomers found themselves in an uncomfortably tight tussle for most of the night.

I mean, to be honest, it never really felt like they were going to lose. But, as Andrej Lemanis described postgame, the contest never really broke apart.

“It was one of those games where it was right there and you expect the floodgates to open and they didn’t,” the Boomers coach said.

 

 

The Boomers’ turnover continue to be a genuine concern as they advance towards the tournament’s knockout stage but let’s dive deeper into them in a minute.

For now, let’s focus on the fact that our boys are 4-0 and that’s bloody great. They’re also locked into a Quarter-Finals spot with one more pool game to play. Boom!

 

THE ADJUSTMENT

With a tick under five minutes left in the third quarter and the scores tied, the Boomers made a savvy adjustment that helped them re-establish a bit of a buffer at a really important time.

Lemanis placed Andrew Bogut at the high post and instructed his troops to play off him – using their cutting actions to showcase the skills of one of the world’s top passing big men.

It worked a treat.

Straight out of the huddle the reigning NBL MVP found Mills for a lay-up straight and then, after a stop, he set Mills up again as the sharpshooter toed the arc in the opposite corner.

Time-out Dominicans.

It was only a 4-0 run (a score-review showed that Patty had his toe on the line) but those back-to-back buckets shifted the momentum and the Boomers led the rest of the way.

Bogut was the one who sparked it and the big fella finished with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in 16 heavily-influential minutes on the floor.

“He (Bogut) is such a great passer,” Lemanis commented postgame.

“He gets other guys open, gets them looks, understands how he’s being played and how that translates into opportunities for his teammates.

“We appreciate what he does for this group, we’re thankful to have him and we enjoy the way he plays.”

 

SPEAKING OF NBL GUYS…

Bogut wasn’t the only NBL star to have an impact last night as a bunch of guys repping our league played big roles in securing the win.

With most of the starters lacking their usual pop, Melbourne United gun Chris Goulding, Perth Wildcats workhorse Nick Kay and South East Melbourne marquee man Mitch Creek all made really important contributions.

Goulding (15 points) continued his terrific form by once again providing instant offence off the bench, Kay (7 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists) was excellent in extended minutes while Creek’s contribution belied his lack of stats.

“I think the boys really rallied together and a lot of the guys off the bench really picked up the slack,” Landale reflected.

“Mitch Creek was huge and so was Nick Kay again, he’s been massive for us the whole tournament.”

 

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THESE TURNOVERS

The Boomers did a lot of things right on Saturday night – at both ends of the floor – but their inability to look after the rock hurt them once again, keeping the game close.

The Dominicans definitely deserve some credit for putting the Aussies on the back foot. But truth be told, this is an issue that has plagued the Boomers since their first warm-up game.

When they’re locked in (usually against a high-quality opponent), the Boomers tend to reign it in. But when their focus wanes (usually against a team they’re ‘expected’ to beat) they tend to get a little looser goosey.

Against the Dominican Republic they tossed it away far too many times.

“I thought the ball stuck at times and that led to the 16 turnovers, which is frustrating,” Lemanis explained.

“You build a bit of momentum and you get a stop and it’s like, ‘damn, we just turned it over.’”

After four games, the Aussies rank fourth in the World Cup in scoring (89.5 points per game) and second in assists (25.5) but they’re also inside the top ten for turnovers, averaging 14 per game.

Interestingly, Serbia – the darlings of the tournament so far – rank first in both scoring (103.3) and assists (30.8) while averaging slightly more turnovers than the Boomers at 14.8 per game.

Every other nation ranked inside the top 17 for turnovers has already been eliminated from gold medal contention.

The thing is: if your offence revolves predominantly around the pass, like Australia’s and Serbia’s do, turnovers are going to happen.

When their offences are clicking, both the Boomers and the Serbians are very, very pretty to watch. Their combination of elite ball and player movement results in some pretty incredible assist numbers (the Aussies threw a massive 30 dimes last night!) as well as some very nice highlight-reel clips.

 

 

However the downside of all that unselfishness is their tendency to sometimes over-pass; something that is often leading to turnovers and, for the Boomers at least, has resulted in some pretty low free throw counts.

No need to panic though. Lemanis and his coaching staff are conscious of the need to tighten things up but they’re also happy with the general approach of their squad.

“Everybody’s trying to do the right thing, everybody wants to do the right thing,” Lemanis commented.

“They’re a competitive group which is part of what makes us a good basketball team; guys want to do well and want to win and we want to perform at our optimal all the time.”

From here on though, it’s business time every step of the way. Performing at their optimal all the time is exactly what they’re going to need to do.

 

NEXT STOP: FRANCE

Having locked in their place in the final eight, the Boomers will now face France on Monday night to decide top spot in Group L.

The likely prize for the winner will be a Quarter-Final match-up with either the Czech Republic, Brazil or Greece while the loser will face the USA (assuming the Americans take care of business against Brazil).

That’s a pretty big prize.

Don’t get me wrong, this U.S. team is not to be feared. Nonetheless, avoiding the States in a Quarter-Final match-up is always a good idea. We know that better than most.

First things first: Beat Française!

“France are a very good basketball team and it’s a match-up we look forward to,” Lemanis said.

“They’re long and athletic, they’re good defensively and they execute offensively very well.

“In many ways we see them playing a lot like ourselves in the way that they share the ball and the way they hang their hat on the defensive end.”

Other similarities include their 4-0 record, including a win over a very tough Lithuanian side.

Dynamic scorer Evan Fournier has been outstanding, Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo were both big-time last night while Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert is always a sizeable problem.

The Stifle Tower is averaging 11.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and is the tournament’s leading shot-blocker, averaging over 2 swats and countless changed shots per game.

“He’s a hell of a shot blocker,” Landale said.

“We understand that it’s going to be tough to finish around the rim but it’s not going to deter our efforts to try to make that happen and I’m sure the coaching staff will figure out ways that can pull him out of the paint a little bit.”

That will certainly be the plan and between Baynes’ three-point shooting and Bogut’s high-post prowess, it’s definitely achievable. However the Boomers will need to be much tidier than they were last night if they’re to take advantage.

The French also have numerous strings to their bow and, as Lemanis suggested, their length and athleticism are bound to give the Boomers trouble.

That being said, the Aussies are rolling right now. They’re a wonderful team to watch, NOBODY wants to play them and they’re perfectly primed to pull off something special in China.

What a time.

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