Olympics: Boomers gold medal dream ends in semi-final

The Boomers’ dream at Olympic gold is over.

Australia were dismantled by Serbia in the semi-final, going down 87-61, and will now play for a consolation bronze medal against Spain, on Monday morning at 12:30am.


The Boomers were praised for their masterful offensive display throughout the tournament, but it was a let-down in the semi-final, as Serbia’s defense didn’t allow Australia to get into a rhythm all game.

A shooting display of just 33 per cent from the field, and 13 per cent from beyond the three-point line, was representative of the Boomers’ offensive woes.

Turnovers were also a major problem for Australia.

The Boomers were sloppy with the ball and were stonewalled by the Serbian defense, leading to 16 turnovers, from nine different players. The Boomers were averaging just 11.8 turnovers throughout the tournament prior to the semi-final, the third-best rate at the Games, but it didn’t seem that way against Serbia.

Even Australia’s slick ball movement couldn’t work its way into the game. Coming into the game averaging 26.7 assists, first at the Olympics, the Boomers recorded just 14 dimes, as Serbia’s defensive display shut down every Australian avenue to the basket.

On the defensive end, Serbia broke through Australia’s initial wall of pressure, on their way to shooting a red-hot 53 per cent from the field. It was the Serbians who displayed excellent ball movement, recording 23 assists on 32 made buckets.

Milos Teodosic led the Serbians, scoring a game-high 22 points, shooting 9-of-14 from the field. Being guarded by Matthew Dellavedova for the majority of the game, Teodosic was unfazed by the Aussies’ pressure.

For the Boomers, Brock Motum and Patty Mills led the scoring with 13 points apiece. Joe Ingles was the only other double-digit scorer, with 12 points.

You can’t win a game in the first half, but as the Boomers found out, you can certainly lose one.

The Boomers’ usual smooth offense was stymied by Serbia in the first quarter. The ball movement wasn’t crisp, turnovers were frequent and shots weren’t falling.

Serbia applied immense pressure on the Boomers’ ballhandlers, especially Dellavedova and Andrew Bogut, which forced Australia into five first quarter turnovers, including three from the usually reliable Dellavedova.

“This is some spectacular defense from Serbia,” Andrew Gaze said on Channel 7’s broadcast.

Australia tried to create good looks, but the Serbian defense didn’t give them anything easy. The Boomers seemed uncomfortable shooting, on their way to scoring just five first quarter points, connecting on 2-of-15 from the field and 1-of-7 from the three-point line.

“Tough shots every time down the floor,” Gaze said, of the Boomers’ offense.

Serbia came out aggressive offensively, led by Teodosic, who scored six first quarter points. The patient Serbian system eventually broke the Boomers’ defense down, as the Serbians ended the first period with a 16-5 lead.

The start of the second quarter signalled an increased energy boost from the Boomers.

Australia scored the first five points in the period in less than two minutes – after scoring five for the entire opening quarter – but the momentum was quickly extinguished.

After the early 5-0 run, Serbia responded, outscoring Australia 19-4 to end the half. Heading into the locker-room, the Boomers were facing a 21-point deficit.

The Boomers’ turnovers were devastating.

A combination of boisterous Serbian defense, and careless Australian ball handling and passing, led to 11 first half turnovers, from nine different players.

“This is getting a little out of hand on the offensive end with the turnovers,” Gaze said.

His commentary partner, John Casey, echoed the sentiments.

“They picked a bad night to have a bad night,” Casey said.

Along with the turnovers, the Boomers couldn’t put the ball in the basket. The Serbian defense shut down everything Andrej Lemanis’ men tried, which was outstanding in the first half.

Australia’s beautiful offensive system, consisting of pin-downs, screens on and off the ball, drop-ins, pick and rolls and faultless ball movement, was nowhere to be seen.

Serbia’s defense was suffocating and it resulted in the Boomers shooting just 21 per cent in the first half, including 2-of-14 from beyond the three-point line.

According to Casey, the 14 points was the lowest first-half output in Australia men’s Olympic basketball history.

Australia had just five assists in the first half, another indication of how stagnant the offense was.

Mills led the Boomers in the first half, with five points.

Australia was lucky Serbia didn’t build a larger lead at half time.

The Serbians shot just 39 per cent in the first half, despite creating numerous good looks. Serbia assisted on nine of their 14 made field goals and held a 29-15 rebounding edge, in what was a dominating opening 20 minutes.

Australia couldn’t recover after the break, allowing 31 third-quarter points, ending any slim chance of a comeback.

The Boomers have had a tremendous Olympic tournament, but if they leave Rio without a medal, their performance will be labelled a disappointment.

Box Score | Highlights 

Luke Sicari

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Writer, producer at 1116 SEN | Media assistant at the West Coast Eagles | Sport Journalism Student at La Trobe

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