“I think we grinded it out.”
Joe Ingles’ description of the Boomers’ win against France epitomises Australia’s identity this FIBA 2019 World Cup. Tough-nosed and unafraid of any competition, Australia continued their historic tournament by beating the French in a thriller on Monday night, 90-88, extending their win streak to 5-0.
Unlike previous games, Australia now faces the pressure of elimination. Facing them in the quarter-finals will be the Czech Republic, who have had a reasonable amount of success thus far in the tournament, only losing games against Team USA and Greece.
Here are some thoughts about this do-or-die game for the Boomers.
1. Perimeter defence
Once again, Australia’s defence could have been sharper in their latest victory over the French. The Boomers’ much-discussed drop coverage on opponent pick and rolls was exposed once again, with Fournier, Batum and De Colo being the beneficiaries of the green and gold’s defensive strategy. This wasn’t helped by the fact that Goulding and Mills –both of whom aren’t particularly known for their defensive prowess– were at times the two guards trying to slow down the relentless attack from the French wings.
It is clear Boomers head coach Lemanis will continue to stick by his defensive philosophy, but it is important to note that the Czech Republic have weapons of their own who will be licking their lips at the sight of open 18-foot jump shots.
Jaromir Bohacik has been scoring in a variety of ways at the World Cup, averaging 17.4 points per contest (12th overall) on an efficient 53/42/77 shooting splits. The same can be said about the Czech Republic’s only NBA player, Thomas Satoransky. He has chipped in with 15.2 points a game, however it has been his effectiveness as a distributor that has been the impressive component of his tournament play. He currently is second at 7.4 assists per game, only behind fellow NBA point guard, Dennis Schroder.
2. Dogfight or high scoring?
The Boomers’ last three games have been separated by six points or less. Even against Canada and Senegal, the Boomers let their guard down at times, inviting their competition into the match.
It has been well-documented that turnovers have been Australia’s Achilles heel. The Czech Republic also aren’t strangers to throwing the ball away, averaging 12.2 per game. Expect mistakes to happen on both teams, and transition offence to come into play.
The Czech have legitimate offensive threats in Jaromir Bohacik and Tomas Satoransky. They also have complementary scorers, including Blake Schilb, who is more than capable of going off for 15 points a night. The sharpshooter has been exceptionally efficient, leading the tournament in 3-point percentage at 66.7%.
Australia’s best shot creator, Patty Mills once again proved why he is considered one of the best at this tournament against the French, showcasing his skill with an array of acrobatic finishes at the rim, as well as his continual 3-point barrage at the tournament. Joe Ingles’ offensive effectiveness, whether that be distributing or scoring, has also been a pivotal factor in Australia’s unbeaten run. That’s not forgetting big man Aron Baynes’ outstanding perimeter shooting in the last game against France.
The pressure of elimination might prove to be the differentiator here. The Boomers have proven themselves to be capable of rising above tough situations. During the France game, despite being down by nine points, Australia managed to turn things around. Matthew Dellavedova played the fourth quarter with four fouls, knowing that one wrong move would send him to the bench. Both teams are well capable of scoring, but expect the Boomers to deliver the required knockout punch when the going gets tough.
3. Experience, size and interior depth
The Boomers have considerable depth at the power forward and centre positions. This has been backed up on the court, with all players having defining moments during group play.
Aron Baynes has scored in double figures every game. He’s also been stepping in and taking charges, while lighting it up from the arc. Jock Landale has been particularly effective as a role player who makes smart passes and takes high percentage looks on offence. Off the bench, Andrew Bogut has continued to distribute and rebound in limited minutes, while Nick Kay has provided energy for the team.
The Czech Republic don’t have the luxury of deploying as many elite big men. Ondrej Balvin is the only seven footer on his team but has proven to be effective at the tournament, nearly averaging a double-double so far. 6’9 big man Patrick Auda has played all of his minutes in this tournament at power forward, averaging 10.6 points and 4.4 rebounds a game.
If the Czechs are going to take the Aussies all the way, it would have to be either through their guards, and outshooting their opposition from deep, as it seems the Aussie big men outmatch their counterparts in terms of skill and physical attributes.
The Australian Boomers play the Czech Republic on Wednesday, 11 Sep at 11pm AEST.
Australian Boomers schedule for 2019 FIBA World Cup: (All times AEST)
September 11: Quarter-finals vs Czech Republic, 11pm (Wednesday)
September 13: Semi-finals
September 15: Medal Games