Written by Kane Pitman.
Ten minutes of extra basketball was required to separate the two nations, with Marc Gasol taking over in the second overtime to sink the Boomers gold medal hopes.
“That was a hell of a game of basketball, it was fun to be involved with and really proud of our team and the way we got after it. You certainly can’t question the effort and intensity with which we played and the manor with which we played,” a visibly disappointed Andrej Lemanis said postgame.
“It’s tough to lose, no doubt it’s tough to lose, but Spain is also a good basketball team and played well and it comes down to a couple plays here or there and that’s the way it goes.”
Patty Mills laid it all on the line for the Boomers, finishing with 34 points to give him 167 for the tournament, passing Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic to once again become the World Cup’s leading point scorer.
Mills missed the second of two free-throws with 4.7 seconds left in regulation, leaving the game tied at 81 and headed to overtime. Then in the first extra period, Matthew Dellavedova got up a tough baseline jump shot under duress, hitting the back of the rim as time expired, sending the game to a second overtime tied at 90.
“We’ll go back and look at the video tape but at the end of the day we had chances to win the game. Spain made some nice plays; they are a good basketball team. We had some opportunities, perhaps I played some people too long and they were a little tired, but again, at the end of the day I think we had every opportunity to win the game and sometimes it just doesn’t happen for you,” Lemanis said.
By virtue of the schedule, Spain received an extra 24 hours rest in the lead up to the cutthroat semi-final, which potentially played a critical factor the longer the game went on.
Dellavedova was forced to head to the sideline with 2:58 left in the second overtime, clutching at his leg after throwing a cross-court pass in front of the Australian bench.
“[Dellavedova] got a cramp on the back end, he’s our point guard and organiser and that obviously impacted us in that area. That’s one of those things right, you are playing the game thinking you are going to win it in regulation and had we known we were going to go into double-overtime then maybe we play it differently and sub a little bit differently,” Lemanis admitted.
Turnovers were once again a thorn in the Boomers’ side, as they committed 22, eclipsing their assist total of 21.
One of the hottest three-point shooting teams in the FIBA World Cup leading into the game (40 percent through six games), Australia struggled to find the range against Spain, connecting on just 10 of their 40 attempts (25 percent).
Despite the rough shooting, the Boomers were able to assert their authority down low, outscoring Spain 44-38 in the paint, while collecting a staggering 20 offensive rebounds in the process.
Nick Kay was critical in that area, hauling in a team-high seven offensive rebounds in his total of 11, while also tallying 16 points. Dellavedova would finish with six points and nine assists, while Joe Ingles had four points, ten rebounds and seven assists.
Andrew Bogut also played a major role, adding 12 points and nine boards, while tasked with the formidable challenge of scoring on and guarding Gasol.
While the Boomers gold medal dreams were dashed on Friday night, they will have to find a way to set aside the disappointment, with history on the cards on Sunday night.
The Boomers will play the loser of tonight’s Argentina-France matchup for the Bronze medal, which would be the Boomers first medal in a major international tournament.
“We definitely came here for gold and the way the boys played represented that, but the FIBA World Cup is not over yet, we’ve still got another chance to win our first medal and this is going to be a great opportunity to see how the group responds to a little bit of adversity,” a defiant Kay said.
“We have a lot of guys in this locker room that have been through this a lot, we are going to come out this next game and fight and do everything that we can to make sure that we come home with that medal.”
Australia v Argentina or France tips off at 6pm (AEST) on Sunday night – Watch live on Fox Sports or Kayo.