The Australian Boomers have been upset by Japan in the first game of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers third window, falling 78-79 for their first loss since the 2016 Rio Olympics.
With two new recruits, Rui Hachimura and Nicholas Fazekas, Japan were a different looking side compared to when Australia last met them in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers in November but the Boomers were also boosted by the addition of NBA stars Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker.
Getting his national team debut off to the perfect start, Maker recorded a block and a three-point play to begin proceedings but the Boomers were unable to make Japan hurt from beyond the arc.
They shot 2-9 as a team in the first quarter and at the other end, the Japanese hit 60% from the field to open up a seven-point advantage as Hachimura tallied 13 points himself.
Dellavedova began the second period with a nice lob to Angus Brandt but Japan continued to make it difficult for the Aussies in the paint as Nicholas Fazekas (25 points, 12 rebounds) caught fire from long-range, knocking down consecutive three’s to open up a double-digit advantage.
Chris Goulding (22 points, three assists) was able to answer as he found his range from beyond the arc as well but he was only able to trim the deficit to nine points at the main break as aside from Goulding, the Boomers were shooting just 9-36 from the field.
Coming out of half-time, Australia showed a stronger intent at the offensive end with Dellavedova hitting consecutive floaters before feeding Maker for three as the Boomers went on an 11-2 run.
A hustle play from Nick Kay then saw the ball fall to Mitch McCarron who hit the easiest of lay-ups to put the visitors in front but Japan had an answer, moving back in front by six points at three-quarter time as they continued to challenge their favoured opposition.
Despite keeping Japan scoreless for the opening three minutes of the fourth term, Australia were unable to make much inroads on the deficit at the other end.
Maker (13 points, 12 rebounds) was intent on being the difference though and he threw down a thunderous dunk in transition for the highlight of the game before connecting on a three-point play on the following possession.
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Dellavedova (four points, eight assists) then found Kay (12 points, nine boards) for a simple lay-up to make it a one-point game inside the last minute and Australia looked to have all the momentum when McCarron (seven points, three rebounds) stripped Fazekas under the rim.
Kay was unable to hit the mid-range shot on the resulting possession though and Ryusei Shinoyama (four points, three assists) ran the length of the floor to push the lead back out to three.
The Boomers had one last chance but Kay was unable to make amends through his three-point attempt and again, Japan scored quickly in transition with Hachimura (24 points, seven rebounds) putting the exclamation on the win with a dunk while Goulding hit a late three for the final score of 78-79.
Find the box score here.
“We didn’t come out with the intensity required to play at this level,” said Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis.
“Japan did a nice job of exposing us, they were aggressive and moved the ball well.
“We fought our way back into the game, that second half is much more like Australian basketball but all said and done, what it came down to was shooting percentages. We took 82 shots, we gave ourselves plenty of opportunities but it’s going to be hard to win basketball games when you’re putting up that percentage (34%).”
Compounding those shooting woes, the Boomers recorded a 22-10 advantage in offensive rebounds while they had 19 assists and just six turnovers as a team but they struggled to find the bottom of the basket all night.
They must re-group quickly for their clash with the Philippines on Monday night (at 9.30pm) which is now a battle for top spot in Group B.
Watch all the action on Fox Sports Australia channel 506 with stats available here.
The Australian Boomers Schedule for the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers First Round:
November 24: Chinese Taipei 66 def. by Australian Boomers 104
November 27: Australian Boomers 82 def. Japan 58
February 22: Australian Boomers 84 def. Philippines 68
February 25: Australian Boomers 88 def. Chinese Taipei 68
June 29: Japan 79 def. Australian Boomers 78
July 2: Philippines vs. Australian Boomers at 9.30pm AEST