Five thoughts on the Australian Boomers’ 100-98 win over France at the FIBA World Cup from NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria.
THE BOOMERS SPIRIT
The Boomers’ thrilling win over France on Monday night took their 2019 World Cup record to 5-0 and secured a favourable spot in the bracket heading into the Quarter-Finals.
It was a stirring victory, with the Aussies once again displaying the skill, courage and dogged-determination that have made this squad so fun to support.
Patty Mills (30 points) was his usual brilliant self, Joe Ingles (23) provided plenty of swagger, Aron Baynes (21 points, 5 rebounds) was a beast while a bunch of other Boomers made key contributions at important times.
After a nip-and-tuck opening half, Australia’s moment of truth arrived late in the third quarter when the French jumped out to a dangerous 9-point lead.
As usual the Boomers held their nerve, riding back-to-back triples from Ingles and Mills and digging in at the defensive end to claw their way back into the game.
Following the win, head coach Andrej Lemanis described the third-quarter comeback as “true to the Boomers spirit,” adding that his squad has “the talent, camaraderie and mateship,” and thus the belief, to win a gold medal.
Big win!! ?? pic.twitter.com/1HmlEi41RE
— Matthew Dellavedova (@matthewdelly) September 10, 2019
Baynes, who described the Boomers as “a second family,” beautifully expanded on his coach’s comments.
“Any time we get together we know what it’s about, we know what we are trying to do,” he said.
“We’re trying to do it for the guys who have been there and set the pathway for us and we are trying to build for the future as well.
“It’s about respecting the guys who have come before us and then trying to go out and do the best we can and try to impart the same ethos on how we carry ourselves for the young guys and the guys that are coming through.
“That’s what it’s about for us being a Boomer and we definitely lift for this. It’s the most fun we will have playing basketball, playing together. Why not come out here and try and make our mark at the same time as well?”
Why not, indeed.
HOUSE OF BAYNE
Speaking of Baynes, the big fella was absolutely brilliant last night.
I mean, don’t get it twisted: Baynes has been outstanding the entire campaign. But it all came together against France as the NBA veteran outmuscled Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert, stepped out and made it rain from long range and made a series of key defensive plays in crunch time to secure the win.
Every aspect of his contribution was massive.
With Gobert staying at home to protect the paint, Baynes punished him by draining five triples from six attempts. His picks landed, his block-outs were on point and his defence, especially down the stretch, was game-winning.
“He took three charges in big situations,” Lemanis noted.
“His ability to guard pick and rolls – help on the guard and also take care of Gobert rolling… his presence, stepping out and sticking some threes, a big post target… (that was) an all-round performance.”
BOOMERS | “There’s no other group of guys that I’d rather be out there going to war with than these bunch of mates.” – Aron Baynes ??????#GoBoomers #AustraliaGotGame #FIBAWC pic.twitter.com/lpzheaNn0Z
— Basketball Australia (@BasketballAus) September 9, 2019
CLEANING THE GLASS
Following Australia’s historic win over the United States in Melbourne last month, Andrew Bogut spoke about a key characteristic of this Boomers team.
“The biggest thing about us that I like,” Bogut said. “Is that we make great adjustments from game to game.”
One of the big adjustments the Boomers made that night was to rededicate themselves to cleaning the defensive glass. The Aussies had given up 16 offensive boards in the first match-up with the U.S. at Marvel Stadium and responded in the rematch by allowing only 6.
However their issues on the boards resurfaced in China when they gave up 13 o-boards to a long and athletic Senegal.
Over their last three games the Boomers appear to have largely solved that problem. They’ve given up single-digit offensive rebounding counts in each of those contests, allowing Lithuania to grab only one in the opening half last week and giving up only six to the Dominican Republic across all four quarters on Saturday night.
That dominance went to a whole other level last night.
“We kept them to two offensive rebounds for the game,” Lemanis told media.
“That’s something we’ve been talking about and getting better at throughout the course of the tournament so that is obviously a really pleasing statistic.”
Sure, France are a poor rebounding team and the Boomers only grabbed four o-boards of their own, but it was another step forward nonetheless, in an area that has been a bit of a headache.
As mentioned previously, the way in which Lemanis has the Aussies defending pick-and-roll actions is key to their work on the defensive glass. Their coverages prevent them from getting into rotations, allowing everyone to box their man out when a shot goes up.
Another key has been a renewed focus on getting everybody involved.
Lemanis told his squad to “Box out and swoop!” in the huddle before tip-off last night, instructing his guards and wings to hang around and gain possession while the bigs are laying bodies on France’s best offensive rebounders.
Our bigs – Baynes (5), Bogut (5) and Landale (4) – still led the defensive rebounding count but having a bunch others (Creek, Delly, Ingles, Mills and Goulding) chiming in was crucial to the cause.
INGLES ON FOURNIER LATE WAS A MASTERSTROKE
French guard Evan Fournier was a big problem last night, pouring in a game-high 31 points in an impressive performance.
The Boomers rotated bodies on Fournier throughout the game, with Dellavedova, Mills, Creek and Ingles all having a crack at slowing him down.
It wasn’t working particularly well though, as the Orlando Magic guard had 26 midway through the third period.
— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) September 9, 2019
But when Lemanis reinserted Ingles a minute or so later (right at the moment when France went up nine), he put the NBA swingman back on Fournier to quell the sharpshooter’s influence.
Ingles’ length worried the Frenchman into an air-ball on the very next possession and with the smack-talking Aussie chasing him around, Fournier went scoreless for the next six minutes of game-time.
The classy guard got to the foul line while Ingles grabbed a minute of rest midway through the fourth and he also shook loose on a broken play for a game-tying three late in the fourth.
Other than that, Ingles locked him up.
“WE NEED TO COME CORRECT”
The Boomers’ undefeated run through two seriously tough groups has blasted the bracket wide open for a potential golden run.
Serbia and Team USA are now both on the other side of the draw, meaning wins over the Czech Republic and either Spain/Poland will see the Aussies march through to a gold medal game.
But hold up, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Remember 2014? The next challenge is to take care of business in the Quarter-Finals against a plucky Czech Republic that has been playing some seriously good ball.
“We need to come correct,” Lemanis said sternly.
“It’s the way the tournament is, you have to get over the wins very quickly and get focused on the next task.
“The pattern we have had so far is (to have) a good game and then we’ve taken our foot off the gas a little bit. It is important that we bring the same intent mentally.”
The Czechs played USA tough in their opening game before beating up on Japan, Turkey and Brazil and narrowly losing to Greece to advance to the final eight.
They are led by Chicago Bulls guard Tomáš Satoranský, a 6-foot-7 do-it-all PG who has been on triple-double watch his last two games and Jaromír Bohačík, a 6-foot-6 lefty gunner that can get buckets in a variety of ways.
They’re talented but the Boomers ‘should’ win. Avoiding complacency will be the key.
“It is a Quarter-Final of the World Cup, if we can’t get up for that then we don’t deserve to win,” Lemanis added.
“I’m confident that we will. We’ll come out and play how we play and they’ll play how they play and the result will go as it goes.
“But as long as we come out and play like the Boomers… when we play with that passion and commitment then good things tend to happen to us with the skillset that we’ve got.”