Written by Kane Pitman.
Patty Mills produced in the clutch, Aron Baynes provided the physicality, Joe Ingles served up dimes on a silver platter and Nick Kay delivered the x-factor. Australia had contributors across the board against Lithuania, in what was an absorbing 87-82 victory.
“That was a great game between two very good teams who play a nice brand of basketball. It was always going to be tight; it was always going to be a tussle. Really proud of our group for managing to find a way when things got a little bit tough for us," Lemanis continued.
A little bit tough might actually be underestimating the resiliency of the Boomers, who led for the majority of the night before a frigid start to the fourth quarter left the game --and perhaps the Boomers gold medal aspirations-- hanging in the balance.
An 11-0 run to start the final period vaulted the Lithuanians into the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter. Playing with composure and control all night, the Boomers became a little disjointed, before some cool heads wrestled control back in the Australian’s favour.
Remarkably, the Boomers regained the lead by scoring their first basket of the fourth with just 3:30 remaining on an Aron Baynes layup, assisted by Joe Ingles who was once again masterful with ball in hand on the night.
A pair of clutch free-throws for Mills and Nick Kay proceeded an ice cold step back triple from Mills, giving the Australian’s an 83-78 lead with 32 seconds left, effectively sealing the historic victory.
The implications of the result were well known heading into the contest, and it was clear the Boomers came with a steely resolve that was required, led by Aron Baynes, who single handily reversed the squad’s issues on the glass to that point in the tournament.
“Phenomenal, right?” Lemanis said of Baynes’ performance.
“He always seems to get up for playing Lithuania, he enjoys the challenge of going up against true big bodies. Take his stat line: 8-15 from the field, 3-5 from the three-point line, 21 points and 13 rebounds, six of them offensive.”
“He and [Andrew] Bogut for the most part shared single coverage on [Jonas] Valanciunas and managed to keep him to seven points. We speak about it a lot, in international basketball you need the size, you need the beef, there’s big men playing this game.”
Australia led the rebounding count 40-32, holding a 11-9 edge on the offensive glass, reversing the trends of both teams coming into the game.
With Bogut battling foul trouble for the majority of the night, the dominance on the glass may have come as a surprise, though it would be the contributions of Kay and Jock Landale that proved pivotal.
Kay would tally 11 points on just six shots, while Landale would chip in with 10 points on seven shots. The big time two-way performances under the spotlight of a marquee World Cup matchup provided further illustration of not only the squad's depth, but it’s unity under duress.
“We stayed together, banded together, kept the belief, found a way to scrap to the win,” Lemanis said.
Mills led all scorers for the second straight game, finishing with 23 points, while Matthew Dellavedova added 10. Ingles would continue to fill up the assist column in the box score with 8, while Mitch Creek would play 12 valuable minutes off the bench, highlighted by four clutch points from the charity stripe down the stretch.
The Boomers move to 3-0 at a FIBA World Cup for the first time in history with the win and will now head into the second round full of confidence, with France and the Dominican Republic on tap in the second round.
The Boomers next game will take place on Saturday, with tip time TBD. You can watch the game live on FOX Sports or stream on Kayo.