The Australian Boomers have dropped their second match in as many days as they prepare for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, going down to Finland 87-81 in overtime. Finland was spurred on by the return of local hero Petteri Koponen, who led the home side with 15 points. Aron Baynes turned in his strongest performance yet for the green and gold with 22 points on 10/11 shooting from the floor to go along with 11 rebounds.
Not only will the Boomers take positives from the return to form of Baynes, but also the way in which they clawed their way back into the match to force overtime by way of a 44-33 advantage in the second half. It would be Finland however, who would ultimately rise to the occasion in the extra period, as they outscored Australia 15-9 to square the ledger at one game apiece between the two sides in matches leading up to the World Cup in Spain.
— Basketball Australia (@BasketballAus) August 12, 2014
Baynes looked to be aggressive to the hoop early as he scored the Boomers first 4 points, followed by a Dante Exum baseline 3-pointer and down the lane finger roll for an early 9-2 advantage. A late first quarter 3-pointer by Koponen would see the teams head to the break with the visiting Boomers just in front at 17-16.
Finnish Forward Erik Murphy -who looks set to be a team-mate of Boomers guard Matthew Dellavedova at the Cleveland Cavaliers this coming NBA season- would edge Finland in front at the start of the second quarter with a right hook shot. Meanwhile, Baynes left the court mid-way through the quarter after clashing legs on the break with a Finnish defender in what would ultimately be a turning point for the Boomers. Scoreless for the last 3 minutes of the term, the Boomers were outscored 23-11 in the quarter and go into the half time break behind 39-28.
The return of Baynes would be felt immediately in the third quarter as he started the Boomers offense off with a two-handed baseline dunk. Dellavedova and Joe Ingles would both connect from downtown on the next two trips down the floor and quickly see the Boomers back in the reckoning, cutting the Finnish lead to just 5 at 41-36. Finland would manage to pull away again however during the quarter to lead by as many as 14, as the Boomers were frustrated by questionable calls from the Lithuanian and Latvian referees.
Going into the final quarter with the Finnish within reach at 60-54, the Boomers would again have lapses at both ends of the floor, resulting in easy baskets for the home side and continued frustration of their own on offense. Finnish Forward Hanno Mottola, the first Finnish player to play in the NBA, would sink a 3-pointer to have his side nicely poised leading 69-58 with just over half a quarter to play.
A Brock Motum basket and the foul where he would score off his missed free throw would see Australia commence their next run. The Boomers would finish the quarter on a 12-1 run courtesy of further points from Baynes and force an overtime period with the scores locked at 72-all.
Finnish Guard Teemu Ranniko, a former team-mate of Baynes at Slovenian club side Union Olimpija, would set the tone for Finland in the extra period by dropping a 3-pointer on their first trip down the floor and swing the momentum immediately to the home side. The Boomers again showed signs of frustration with some defensive foul calls but pushed on as Ingles knocked down a triple to keep the game in the balance at 81-78 with just two minutes to play.
Adam Gibson’s fifth foul, a call he was clearly displeased with, would see Koponen knock down both free throws and Finland take a 7-point advantage with just a minute to play and put the game beyond doubt. Backing up leading scorer Koponen was Murphy, who did most of his damage in the first half and finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds while Motum provided support to Baynes up front with 12 points. Both Ingles and Exum were the other scorers in double figures for the Boomers with 10 points each.
The Boomers will face Finland for a third time in their World Cup preparations when they square off in Strasbourg on August 23 however will first travel to Nice for games against Ukraine, Philippines and the host nation, France.
*Box scores via Basketball Australia’s game recap.
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Full schedule for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, courtesy BA.