The Australian Boomers’ debut FIBA Asia Cup campaign has started off on the right foot.
Australia dismantled Japan in the first of three group stage matches, 84-68, to underline their status as tournament favourites.
Andrej Lemanis’ men simply dominated all aspects of the contest. They controlled the rebounding battle 47-20, while also beating Japan in the assist category 23-12, field goal percentage 50.8 to 34.6 percent, and points in the paint (48-10).
In an even effort from the Boomers, five players scored in double digits. Guard duo Jason Cadee (13 points, five assists) and Cam Gliddon (13 points, six rebounds, three assists) led the way, while Matt Hodgson and Daniel Kickert added 11 points. Mitch Creek ended with 10 points.
Lemanis will only have a stronger squad to choose from as the tournament continues, as David Andersen didn’t play in the victory and Brad Newley appeared for just 15 minutes.
Australia’s turnover on the first possession of the game would prove to be an exception, as the match started with minimal defensive pressure and free flowing offences. After the initial feeling out process, both sides began to find their rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.
With Japan starting in a two-three zone, and sticking with it for most of the match, it invited numerous open shots on the outside for the Boomers. Kickert found himself wide open on more than one occasion at the top of the three point line, but the Brisbane Bullet connected on just one of his four shot attempts in the opening term.
Kickert’s teammates certainly were not as cold on shooting.
Boomers’ shots started to fall as the Aussie confidence grew, implementing a bevy of on and off ball screens to get Japan’s zone moving. The Boomers ended the opening period shooting 50 percent from the field, but somehow found themselves behind on the scoreboard, 20-19.
Gliddon led the way in the first 10 minutes with eight points, while Cadee buried a pair of triples from the left wing to account for his six points. Hodgson also exerted an influence, establishing himself as a physical presence inside.
Some faux press defense from the Boomers didn’t translate to stops, as the Japanese shot 61.4 percent in the first term. Daiki Tanaka started hot for Japan with seven points.
The turning point for the Boomers came with 7:12 remaining in the second quarter.
After Kickert drew a foul and made the subsequent basket, Japan coach Julio Lamas received a technical foul for arguing. It seemed to spark the Aussies, as Lemanis’ side went on a 21-11 scoring tear to finish the half and take a comfortable 42-31 lead into the long break.
After working through Japan’s zone with some hesitation in the first term, the Boomers unleashed a more aggressive offensive edge in the second quarter, constantly attacking the basket and making the defense react.
Hodgson continued his strong work at the coalface, with the Aussies isolating him as the lone big in the middle of the paint at times. However, it was the work of Gliddon (10 points) and Cadee (eight points) that headlined the first half for the Boomers.
The highlight of the first 20 minutes was Mitch McCarron flying high to catch and finish a Cadee lob pass for a picturesque alley-oop. Nick Kay’s bullet pass to a cutting Newley, and a three man passing drill that led to a Hodgson dunk, were also moments of individual brilliance.
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As Lemanis started to install unique zone defensive structures when Japan were bringing the ball down the court, his side were finally able to string together a number of stops.
After Ira Brown picked up his third foul with 5:26 remaining in the second quarter, it seemed as if all hope was lost for the Japanese. Although, an exciting cameo from Yuki Togashi who scored 12 first half points, ensured Japan maintained a pulse at halftime.
Australia led all the key statistical battleground in the first half, out-rebounding Japan 20-7, having 12 assists to three, scoring 24 points in the paint to four, while shooting above 55 percent from the field, compared to 42.3 percent.
Cadee took the game by the scruff of the neck in the third quarter, dictating the flow and tempo of the contest. His running bounce pass to Creek to push the lead to 13 midway through the term was a thing of beauty, and represented the dagger for Japan.
After some uncharacteristic shooting throughout the match, Kickert finally knocked down his first three-pointer to give his side a commanding 64-43 lead heading into the final period.
Brown showed Japan what they were missing in the first half, as the 35-year-old scored 10 points in the third stanza. That was where the good news ended for the Japanese, though, as the pure talent on Australia’s side eventually wore them down.
Creek showcased his explosiveness in the final period, as the Aussies enjoyed a stress free last 10 minutes.
The Boomers’ next game is against Hong Kong on Thursday, 10 August 2017 at 11:00pm AEST.
Australia 84: Gliddon 13, Cadee 13, Kickert 11, Hodgson 11, Creek 10
Japan 68: Harimoto 13, Togashi 12, Brown 11, Furukawa 10
Boomers schedule for FIBA Asia Cup (all times in AEST)
August 8: Australia defeated Japan 84-68
August 10: Australia vs Hong Kong at 11:00pm
August 12: Australia vs Chinese Taipei at 11:00pm
August 17: Quarterfinals
August 19: Semifinals
August 20: Bronze and gold medal games
Fox Sports will be broadcasting every Boomers game live. Alternatively, FIBA’s www.livebasketball.tv will also be showing all the action.