THE biggest crowd to ever watch a basketball game in Australia witnessed the Boomers and Team USA do battle in Melbourne last night, with the tourists flexing their muscle in a 102-86 victory.
Written by Megan Hustwaite.
More than 50,000 people filled Marvel Stadium as it transformed into a hoops amphitheatre and despite a strong first half from Australia, it was Team USA who put on a four-quarter show.
Three-time NBA all-star Kemba Walker starred with a game-high 23 points and six rebounds for his country, while Chris Goulding and Patty Mills (19 points) topped the Boomers’ stat sheet.
Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis said despite the defeat, the game was full of learnings for his team as it fine tunes preparations ahead of next month’s FIBA World Cup in China.
“We got good learnings from this game, we’ve got a good opportunity to come out on Saturday and continue to improve then we get to China and we’ve still got another lead-in game once we get there. There’s time to get this where it needs to be and what we do have is a core of guys who have played together in big events for a period of time so that helps expediate the growth,’’ he told a post-game press conference.
“As in all games, there’s some good stuff and certainly some areas we can improve and continue to learn from. As a group, the first place we want to hang our hat is defensively and there were some periods in that game where we weren’t where we wanted to be at the defensive end. First half, perhaps some of that generated from the stuff we got offensively but then (we) did a nice job of sort of just settling it down, got back into the game, got into it defensively and then ground our offence to get some looks we wanted.
“Obviously that third quarter…bite went out of our defence a little bit, they felt really comfortable, they’re a good team. Some stuff we executed alright and other stuff there were some breakdowns, that I think we can fix, that led to them to making some shots and feeling pretty good about life.”
Mills described the spectacle on home turf as “awesome.”
“Basketball in this country has been waiting for something like this. It’s an opportunity for us to play against a high quality, powerhouse team and help us grow and build for the world championships but you can see how much support is there for basketball and especially our national teams,’’ he said.
Andrew Bogut, Joe Ingles, Mills, Matthew Dellavedova and Jock Landale started for the Aussies but it was Team USA who signalled their intentions immediately with a 6-0 run. Mills drained a three to open the account of the Boomers who would trail 22-20 at the first break.
A Bogut dunk had fans on their feet before free throws from Mills gave the Boomers the lead early in the second term. Team USA was shooting at 40 per cent before Goulding knocked down back-to-back threes then Mills put the Boomers within three points at half time with a timely triple.
The visitors lifted after the main break, Team USA asserting its dominance, and producing some frightening glimpses of brilliance, with a 31-point stanza.
There were highlights aplenty and a couple of dunks for good measure.
Hometown hero Goulding has played some of the best basketball of his career in front of big Melbourne crowds and provided an offensive spark off the bench. And Mills? Team USA, and his San Antonio Spurs, coach Gregg Popovich said it best: “That’s Patty.”
Country Victorian product Dellavedova shot 10 points and dished out six assists. Londale (10 points, seven rebounds, three assists) again showcased his potential, while Aron Baynes had six rebounds and Bogut dished out five assists in addition to six points and four rebounds.
Team USA’s scoring was shared between Myles Turner (15 points, 14 rebounds), Donovan Mitchell (13 points), Kyle Kuzma (12 points) and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (11 points).
The Boomers will look to turn the tables in Game 2 on Saturday. Tip-off is at 2pm.