The opening day of play at the 2014 FIBA World Cup for men is now over. For Australia, they were outplayed by a red-hot Slovenia in going down 80-90 in Gran Canaria. They now need to bounce back less than 24 hours later as they take on a Korean team that is also looking for their first win after falling to Angola 69-80.
To progress to the round of 16, the Boomers need to finish in the top 4 of their group, so not all is lost with the first up loss. However they will most likely need to win against Korea if they are to remain in contention for the top 3, with 1st and 3rd more likely to avoid a match-up with the vaunted USA prior to the medal rounds.
Sending a scare through the Boomers camp was Aron Baynes who went down hurt after a big dunk late in the game against Slovenia. However it appears that it was only a case of cramping and he is expected to suit up against Korea in tonight's game at 9:30pm AEST (live on ABC2). Coach Lemanis is weary of the Koreans after watching them play against New Zealand in their build up, speaking to the Australian media prior to the World Cup.
"I got the opportunity to see Korea play live in New Zealand for a couple of games and I thought they were outstanding," Lemanis said.
"They are very well-disciplined and they shoot the ball really, really well. They play a lot like Finland play and we had our issues on this tour dealing with Finland's three-point shooters. I think Korea played New Zealand tough in New Zealand and showed they are pretty good."
Baynes who led Australia with 21 points and 7 rebounds in their opening game has been a consistent interior force in the build up to the World Cup and maintained that against Slovenia. He will be a key to whether Australia can record their first win against a Korean team lacking size and that like to play an up-tempo game that relies heavily on their outside shooting. With the Boomers likely to look to him in the post to score or open up open looks for the likes of Ryan Broekhoff who when left open his 3/4 treys against Slovenia, but arguably did not get enough looks.
If things are going to plan against Korea early, expect to see Coach Lemanis given Baynes a well-earned rest and provide more opportunities to Brock Motum who was impressive against Slovenia in scoring 8 points with 3 rebounds in under 18 minutes. Motum helped spark the Boomers in the third quarter with his offense, but also delivered some very clever defensive plays.
Another underutilised player that Lemanis could well turn to is Cameron Bairstow. Bairstow played less than 4 minutes in the opening game, but showed his defensive hustle and intensity could be just what the team needs. While David Andersen provided some scoring, he was inefficient in the opening game, scoring his 14 points on just 4/11 shooting - 10 of those shot attempts coming from beyond the arc. Australia needs more interior play to help create open looks for their back court, something Motum and Bairstow are more likely to be able to deliver.
Australia were burned on the pick and roll against Slovenia, something the European teams excel at. Lemanis may well have to reconsider his defensive tactics to help limit the damage being caused, as Lithuania who follow Korea play a similar style of game. Matthew Dellavedova played his heart out, but clearly did not have the foot speed to always keep in front of Slovenia's fleet-footed guards. Korea are also quick, but nowhere near the same level as Slovenia. If Australia can open up an early lead, it may provide the perfect opportunity to provide Dante Exum and Chris Goulding some valuable court time and experience.
In any case, expect to see the Korean's try to run the ball and shoot plenty from long-range as both teams try to win their first game of the world Cup.
Watch the Boomers take on Korea live on Sunday, 31 August from 9:25pm AEST. Watch live on ABC2 or via FIBA's livebasketball.tv.
Heads Up: #TeamPnR's Craig Rayner, Travis Reid and Damian Arsenis will be covering all the Australian Boomers games on Twitter via @OzBallPnR - use hashtag #GoBoomers
Highlights from Day 1 - The Close Ones
Croatia defeated Philippines 81-78 in OT (Group B)
The Philippines nearly pulled off a major upset against Croatia thanks to Andray Blatche who piled on 28 points and 12 rebounds, narrowly missing a game-winning attempt in regulation. Croatia required an extra period before Bojan Bogdanovic hit two crucial free throws with just 41 seconds left in the overtime to edge ahead for good.
New Zealand lost to Turkey 73-76 (Group C)
The Tall Blacks led by as many as 12 points early in the final quarter before Turkey made their run behind 13 final quarter points by Oguz Savas who finished with 16 points to steal the win. Coming off the bench, Corey Webster was outstanding for New Zealand in compiling 22 points and 2 assists in the heart-breaking loss.
France lost to Brazil 62-65 (Group A)
Despite Boris Diaw's 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists and Nicholas Batum's 13 points, France were unable to overcome a talent-laden Brazilian team led superbly by Marcelinho Huertas. Huertas piled on 16 points with 2 rebounds and 5 assists for Brazil who were in control for most of the second half, managing to hold off a late French surge.
Mexico lost to Lithuania 74-87 (Group D)
The final result may not be close, but Mexico took this game right up to Lithuania until late in the third quarter when the European powerhouse pulled away thanks to some hot three-point shooting. Mexico was well served by Cruz who collected 21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Lithuania were too strong thanks to 19 points from Maciulis, 17 points and 5 rebounds from Valanciunas, and 15 points and 4 rebounds from Montiejunas.
Tonight's Key Games
Group B: Argentina vs Croatia (Seville) Group A: Serbia vs France (Granada) Group C: Finland vs Ukraine (Bilbao) Group D: Slovenia vs Mexico (Gran Canaria) Group A: France vs Brazil (Granada) Group C: Turkey vs USA (Bilbao) - live on ABC (#21) from 5:25am AEST
Group D Teams
Australia lost to Slovenia 80-90 Korea (Preview) - 31 August 2014, 9:26pm AEST Lithuania (Preview) - 3 September 2014, 1:26am AEST Mexico (Preview) - 3 September 2014, 9:26pm AEST Angola (Preview) - 4 September 2014, 9:26pm AEST