NBA star Goran Dragic propelled a red-hot Slovenia to a 2014 FIBA World Cup 90-80 opening win over Australia in Gran Canaria, Spain.
The Slovenian's were simply too organised and too efficient on offense, with the Boomers unable to restrict the play of their dynamic back court who were superbly led by Goran Dragic with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Aron Baynes continued to impress for the Boomers with 21 points (8/13 FG) and 7 rebounds and was easily Australia's best player. While the Boomers shot well, they appeared to lack the scoring power that was provided by Patty Mills at the 2012 London Olympics, enduring periods where they were unable to score.
The Boomers official pre-game photo against Slovenia - Courtesy Basketball Australia
The first quarter did not start well for Australia despite winning the tip, immediately turning it over thanks to an errant pass by Dellavedova. Ingles started very aggressively on offense and Broekhoff's sharp-shooting with two triples kept Australia within reach. Slovenia's offense was slick and efficient, led by Goran Dragic who had 9 first quarter points, while Australia was made to scrap for every basket.
Slovenia was red-hot as the Boomers struggled to contain Slovenia's penetration and kick-outs for wide-open shots. While Australia managed a respectable 19 points in the first quarter, it came at the hands of just three players in Baynes, Ingles and Broekhoff. Their opponents ran up 27 as they opened up an 8 point buffer at the first break. It could have been more if it were not for some good defensive plays thanks to Cameron Bairstow.
Slovenia's back court continued to run rings around the Boomers in the second quarter, finding ways to get to the basket and creating open looks from outside. With 7 offensive rebounds in the first half, Australia were getting beaten at their strengths. Goran Dragic was outstanding, racking up 15 points and 2 assists up to half time. When he hit a banked three just as the shot clock expired, Slovenia led 42-34.
However it was then that the momentum started to shift and the game opened up into a free-flowing contest. Brock Motum provided back-to-back buckets inside to close within 34-42, but then facing a mismatch in guarding Goran Dragic he hit another triple. Newley returned fire with one of his own and it was game on.
Baynes was almost unstoppable in the paint, causing Slovenia some trouble of their own. After being man-handled in the post and drawing a foul, Baynes was called for an unsportsmanlike foul that replays showed was unwarranted. Despite the dubious call, it did not halt the growing Boomers momentum. Baynes was able to score again on the next possession, converting the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play. When Dellavedova found Ingles on the backdoor cut for the lay-in to end the first half, the boomers had closed to within 6 points, trailing 43-49.
Started second half strongly, opening with a David Andersen three-point play. Ingles scored not long after and suddenly the Boomers had closed to within 1 point. Slovenia found themselves in early foul trouble thanks to Australia's aggression on offense. Turnovers released some of the pressure, and when Blazic hit his 7th point for Slovenia, they were back in front by 7 points.
The scoring dried up for the Boomers who were unable to make the most of their opportunities. Slovenia managed to ride out the. Another Baynes hook shot was then answered by another Goran Dragic basket at the end of the third, with the Europeans leading 69-60 at the last break.
Australia lost their way offensively to start the final quarter and things started to get out of hand. It was the Dragic brothers combining to help sink the Boomers. Goran made a nice reverse lay-in, and when his brother Zoran connected on a triple, the margin opened up to 14 points with 7 minutes remaining. A subsequent transition bucket then extended the margin out to 16 - the largest of the game.
While Andersen halted the run with a three-pointer of his own, the damage had already been done. The Boomers offense had stagnated, with each possession appearing to be played without purpose. Lorbek then hit a triple to move the margin back out to 16 points with 3:49 to play.
A desperately late Boomers run eventuated, with 4 quick-fire points from Newley. When Broekhoff dialed in from long distance, Australia had closed to within 5 points with 42 seconds left, and that is as close as they would get. Slovenia held off the last-minute attack to close out a 90-80 victory to open their World Cup campaign.
While Goran Dragic was the star, he had great support from his brother Zoran with 10 points. They received telling contributions from Lorbek who had13 points and Balazic with 10. Slovenia surprisingly out-rebounded Australia 32-25, but shot the lights out in hitting 62% from the field and 48% from beyond the arc compared to a more than respectable 52% and 46% from the Boomers.
Baynes was a standout for Australia, however suffered what appeared to be calf cramping after a thunderous dunk late in the game. Australian fortunes may well rest on the fitness of the powerful center who was his consistent self. Veteran David Andersen contributed 14 points and 4 rebounds, with his scoring coming from 4/11 shooting, while Newley finished with 13 points and Ingles had 12 points and 3 assists.
While Matthew Dellavedova battle admirably with 5 points and 5 assists and Broekhoff did his job in hitting 3/4 three-pointers for 9 points, Australia's back court were outgunned. Unfortunately for Australia, Dante Exum looked like a child amongst men, going scoreless in just 10 minutes, failing to provide the spark the Boomers needed.
Brock Motum was a positive sign, providing much-needed scoring and defensive intensity when it was needed. While one could argue Bairstow's toughness and presence was just as required in the paint, however he was just limited to almost 4 minutes, all coming late in the first quarter.
Attention now turns to the Boomers next game against Korea who earlier lost to Angola 69-80.
“All along we have spoken about not getting too high or too low depending on the outcome of the games,” Lemanis said after the game.
“For us the most important thing now is to play well tomorrow – that’s all we can concentrate on.”
Traditional slow starters at major events, the Boomers loss is not the end of the world. They are still favoured to finish in the top 3 of Group D, with the first and third placed teams likely to be able to avoid the USA until the medal rounds.
The Boomers next take on Korea who lost to Angola 69-80 earlier today, on Sunday, 31 August at 9:30pm 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
Group D Team Previews
Slovenia (Preview) - 31 August 2014, 1:26am AEST 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