Written by Kane Pitman.
“[It’s] always good to come away with a win, we always knew it was going to be a tough game. Just the way that the Dominican Republic play, they play an aggressive style of basketball and they get after you and they make moving offensively difficult at times,” head coach Andrej Lemanis said postgame.
“The other reality is that we understand playing with this new format that they were playing for their World Cup survival tonight and there is a desperation that comes with that.”
Jock Landale and Patty Mills each picked up two fouls during the first quarter, prompting Andrej Lemanis to go deep into his rotation earlier than he has in previous games, with Nick Kay once again playing major minutes, while Nathan Sobey’s name was also called for some first quarter action.
Chris Goulding has provided the Australians with their most potent scoring option off the bench at the World Cup, and his impact was immense through the first half, as the Boomers attempted to separate themselves from the desperate Dominicans.
Goulding had 11 points through two quarters, connecting on three of his five attempts from deep, continuing his scorching form from beyond the arc, as Australia went to the locker room with a 40-38 edge.
Aron Baynes was once again a physical force on the block for Australia, swatting shots and hauling in rebounds, though his night was cut short after picking up his fourth foul with 6:04 left in the third quarter. Baynes was deemed demonstrative in his reaction to the call, picking up a technical foul, sending him to the bench for the night.
Baynes wasn’t the only Australian frustrated by foul calls on the night, with the Boomers committing 20 fouls that resulted in 23 free-throw attempts for the opposition.
“I think it was just one of those games where it’s sort of right there and perhaps we expect the flood gates to open and they didn’t,” Lemanis responded when asked about the visible frustration of his team.
“Some of it was a result of some choices that we made, perhaps looking to short circuit a little bit. I think the ball stuck at times and again, that led to 16 turnovers which is frustrating, particularly when you feel like you just built a little momentum and get a stop and then, ‘damn, we just turned it over’.”
Finding himself in early foul trouble against the Lithuanians, Andrew Bogut’s elite passing was on full display on Saturday night. Operating from the top, Bogut was often the focal point of the offence, repeatedly finding his Boomers teammates with pin point accuracy.
Bogut would dish out six assists, while adding eight points and eight rebounds in his incredibly productive 16 minutes on the floor.
“[Bogut] does such a great job of talking defensively, understanding rotations, help situations and obviously he’s a great rim protector,” Lemanis said.
“Offensively he’s such a great passer so 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 are thankful to have him and we enjoy the way he plays.”
Holding a 57-52 edge through three quarters, the Boomers needed a spark, and quickly found one from a usual suspect in Patty Mills, while Landale followed the veterans lead, providing the Boomers with an electric start to the fourth quarter.
Just 5-for-18 from three heading into the final period, Landale and Mills hit back-to-back triples, before Mills scored on a lay-up, and then Landale dropped another bomb from the outside. To cap off an explosive 3:56 of playing time, Landale threw down a Mitch Creek lob and suddenly the Boomers had opened up an 71-60 lead.
The final six minutes would be largely stress free for the Australians, as they held firm to claim the crucial victory.
Landale’s big fourth quarter left him with 13 points on the night on 5-for-6 shooting, though the modest big man was more interested in praising his teammates at the postgame press conference.
“I think the boys really rallied together and the boys off the bench really picked up the slack. Mitch Creek was huge and so was Nick Kay again, he’s been massive for us the whole tournament. We just stuck with what we knew, kept chipping away and came out with the win,” Landale said.
Goulding would finish with 15 points off the bench, while Kay would tie with Bogut to lead the Boomers rebounding with Baynes on the bench. Kay reeled in eight boards, adding seven points and two assists to go with them. Creek was scoreless in his 12 minutes of playing time, though his usual defensive tenacity was felt throughout.
Matthew Dellavedova and Joe Ingles combined for ten of the Boomers incredible 30 assists for the game. Remarkably, the Boomers were credited with a dime on every made basket, an unheard of statistic in modern basketball, providing further evidence of the team’s selfless personality.
“We are really fortunate to have a group of guys that are like that, it’s not about the individual, everyone is wholly committed to playing to the best interests of the team,” Lemanis said.
For now, it appears to be a winning mantra.
Next up for the Boomers is France and the two-time NBA defensive player of the year, Rudy Gobert, on Monday – Tip-off is at 10pm (AEST). Watch live on Fox Sports and Kayo.