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2021 Asia Cup Qualifiers: Boomers power past Hong Kong
Following a forgettable loss at the hands of New Zealand, the Boomers regrouped to face Hong Kong three days later. The boys in green and gold proved too classy for an unheralded but resolute Hong Kong outfit, running out 115-52 winners. This contest was originally set to be held in Hong Kong, but got moved to Brisbane's Nissan Arena in the wake of coronavirus concerns.
The game got off to an inauspicious start, as we had to wait almost 90 seconds for the first points, courtesy of a Jason Cadee three-pointer. It would then take another two minutes for the next bucket, as Kyle Adam sunk another trey to give Australia a 6-0 lead. The two teams had previously combined for 1 of 12 shooting to open the game.
After this slow start, the contest finally got going. Australia came out ahead by a score of 18-12 at the close of the first quarter. Playing just his second game in the green and gold, Dan Grida provided some much-needed spark off the bench, with six points in the opening period.
At the beginning of the second period, fans were treated to the debut of 17 year old Josh Giddey. Giddey became the youngest Boomer since Ben Simmons, and the nerves were on display early, as he missed a wide-open layup to open the quarter. However, the youngster then showed passing vision beyond his years, setting up several quality looks for his teammates.
Australia opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run and never looked back. The home side headed into the half time break with a commanding 51-28 lead, following a 33-16 scoreline in the second period. Cam Gliddon and Adnam were the standouts, with a combined 17 second quarter points.
It was more of the same in the third quarter, which Australia finished with a 87-41 lead. Gliddon's hot streak continued, as the sharpshooter added three long-range bombs from beyond the arc. Giddey scored his first points as a Boomer, hitting two wide-open three-pointers late in the period. The crowd made some noise for the 17 year old, who showed positional awareness and maturity despite his youth.
Although the result was well and truly beyond doubt, Australia didn't let up in the final quarter. Boomers head coach Will Weaver gave Giddey some extra minutes, much to the crowd's delight. Giddey finished with eleven points and six assists - an impressive showing for the 6'7 point guard. Angus Glover and Grida were also among the fresh faces getting an opportunity in garbage time - both would finish the game with 16 points.
Gliddon was the best player on the court for Australia. The 6'6 swingman simply couldn't miss - he scored 21 points on six-of-nine shooting from deep. Nathan Sobey was another to impress - the Boomers captain bounced back from a poor showing against New Zealand with ten points and six assists.
The Boomers should comfortably qualify for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup. Australia's four-team group includes New Zealand, Guam and Hong Kong. The top two teams will progress, meaning one loss to the Tall Blacks won't be detrimental to the Boomers' qualification hopes.
Thoughts from the press conference
When questioned about his specific goals heading into this game, Boomers coach Will Weaver explained that the team is simply looking to continuously improve.
"The goal is always to play the next possession better than the last one. We did that pretty consistently today - our turnovers are way down. [If] we make a few more free throws and hold on to the ball a little better, we would have been in a position to win that game the other night," he said.
Cadee attended the post-game press conference alongside Weaver, and compared this contest with the loss to New Zealand. Given the strong NBL representation among both teams in the latter game, it's unsurprising that Cadee found it to be very different.
"It was probably just a bit more of that international basketball for us. The other night felt like an NBL game. It was up-and-down [and] it was free flowing whereas tonight was a bit more of a grind early on."
When asked about debutant Giddey, Cadee related to his experience as a young newcomer on the national team. The Bullets point guard credited Brad Newley as a mentor when he was coming through the ranks.
"It's crazy, I roomed with him this week and I kept forgetting he was 17! I kind of forget through my life too, that was me at one point - I was sitting there with Brad Newley," Cadee shared.
Cadee added further praise for Giddey, who was impressive on debut. Australian fans have every reason to be excited about the 6'7 passing wizard, who has a long career ahead of him in the green and gold.
"He's a good kid, he's learning [and] he's been around the game his whole life with his family. To see what he's bringing and what he's doing and the head he has on his shoulders - that will take him further than his talent. He's a smart kid [and] he knows it. I think [he has a] long, long time to represent this jersey and do great things. I think we're just starting to see the beginning of his career," Cadee added.
The Boomers will recommence qualifying for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup in November. Despite a tough loss to New Zealand, the dominant win over Hong Kong will give this young playing group some confidence moving forward.