Aussies in NBA: The Australia Day showdown

Australia Day nears once more, but we've got a rather special treat this year when it comes to our Australians in the NBA. Three games will be broadcast tomorrow, involving five of our Aussies in the Association, a much-touted Australia Day celebration in Cleveland, and an anticipated match-up featuring two of the best teams in the league, the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs.

“It’s still not the ultimate goal as far as I’m concerned. The goal for us is to have a game in Australia… This initiative feels like a token gesture designed to move the conversation away from a game in Australia."

This was Andrew Bogut's thought, among many others, on a recent NBA Australia blog entry, on the subject of Cleveland's Australia Day celebration. Could this event be an early milestone for an NBA game in Australia? It seems unlikely, according to Bogut.

[READ: Six reasons why Australia deserves an NBA game]

Nevertheless, having an NBA game on our shores is but a distant goal for now. Sit back, enjoy the day and don't miss a chance to catch our Australians battling it out on the hardwood on this special occasion.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Cleveland Cavaliers - 11:00 am AEDT

by Warren Yiu

This game will be broadcast live and free online, courtesy of NBA Australia and UP&GO. We know how important Australia Day will be for Delly.

"To me, that's representing my family, Maryborough, the AIS, St. Mary's, the Bendigo Braves, Vic Country, and of course, Australia. These people and places have all been a big part of my life, and have helped me to get where I am today." -- Delly Diaries

We know that his national pride could spark his already unquantifiable engine. That engine is about to hit overdrive with Delly to feature prominently in pregame festivities, with Delly imploring Cavs fans to wear green and gold attire to The Q.

Delly’s hometown of Maryborough will also be heaving, with their traditional Australia Day parade harbouring a distinct Cavs theme, including a Cavs pavlova decoration contest and a big screen tv to broadcast the Cavs/Timberwolves game live in the streets.

On the court, the action will be just as packed, with the Wolves trotting out an exciting lineup featuring the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Ricky Rubio.

So how will Delly fare?

Well, we know Delly’s offensive tendencies and his Moreyball shot selection – how he almost exclusively favours the most profitable shots in the game, namely, layups and 3-pointers, whether through lobs (Tristan Thompson alert!) or shooting it himself. And we also know that the Cavs will be playing against a Minnesota Timberwolves squad languishing near the bottom of the West.

Rather pointedly, the Wolves rank 21st in the Association for frequency in opposition 3-point shots attempted, and 20th in the league in opponent 3-point field goal attempts per game. Paradoxically, they’re actually 9th in the league at 3-point field goal defense at 33.9 percent, just ahead of the Cavs. Still, if you allow enough of the juiciest shots in the game, your defensive foundation starts to crack.

Unsurprisingly, the Wolves own a bottom 10 defense in opponent field goal percentage, and are barely outside the bottom 10 overall in defensive rating, allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions. They are also near the bottom of the league in defended field goal percentage for attempts inside of 6 feet, allowing opponents to shoot a ghastly 61.3 percent from inside the paint.

Cue Delly. The Cavs both attempt more threes and shots within the restricted area, and shoot it better, when Delly’s on the court, as opposed to off the court.

Basically, all of that is a longwinded way to say that Delly is primed for a big one on our biggest day.

Detroit Pistons @ Utah Jazz - 1:00 pm AEDT

by Kein

The Pistons and Jazz are providing another authentic Aussie versus Aussie clash on Australia Day, with Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles both ready to make an impact for their respective sides. Let's also not forget about Detroit center Andre Drummond, who is not only leading the league at 15.4 rebounds per game, but also putting points on the board at an average clip of 17.3 points a night.

The Big Banger is in fine form right now, having notched his first double-double in a Detroit jersey recently, and played a season-high 30 minutes against the Denver Nuggets.

Baynes averaged only 5.4 points on 49.7% accuracy along with 4.4 rebounds in 14.2 minutes this season, but has upped his production in the last 5 games (9.4 points on 67.7% shooting, 5.6 rebounds).

Jingles on the other hand, is having a quiet start, despite having played a leadership role with his veteran play on the court last season. His minutes have dropped from an average of 21.2 last season, to 13.9 right now. The Jazz swingman has also not been named to the start at all, after playing 32 games in a starter role last season. Despite that, his numbers have remained steady. Ingles has managed to produce in the sporadic minutes received, including a season-high 14 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Boxing Day and some big plays against the Sacramento Kings that nearly sent the game into OT.

Hayley recently took a deeper look into Jingles' numbers, and it does seem like he is having a winning impact on the team, especially when he is shooting well.

Ingles has however, been relegated to the end of the bench for now. A significant chunk of the team's minutes at the 2/3 are being handed not only to Rodney Hood and Trey Burke, but also rookie Trey Lyles and journeyman Chris Johnson, who has played in seven NBA teams since 2012.

A Joe Ingles appearance is definitely in the works, but expect his minutes and production to be limited.

San Antonio Spurs @ Golden State Warriors - 2:30 pm AEDT

by Jayme Markus

The most anticipated match of the day has got to be this game. Two of the league's best teams (and title contenders) meet for the first time this season, and offer us a sneak peek at what the Western Conference Finals could be like.

Perfect timing some would say.

Despite what Sanitarium wants us to believe, this is the real Australia Day clash between two teams that really matter, with an Aussie on either side.

Both teams are elite at almost every aspect of the game, however they go about their tasks using contrasting styles, which should make this game fascinating viewing.

In their battle for the throne, the Warrior use dragons to burn the opposition with the league’s best offense at its second fastest pace. It only takes a few possessions for the Warriors to turn a tight game into a blowout as they spit fire from the 3-point line.

The Spurs on the other hand have erected a giant wall of ice to starve their opponents to death with the league’s best defense, constricting teams to historically low scores. While their opponents are fully aware winter is coming, they are cannot stop the emotionless, unrelenting consistency of the Spurs' zombie march.

Credit: Game of Thrones, NBA Edition (Game of Zones)

The Warriors are the best 3-point shooting team in the league and the Spurs are the best at stopping 3’s.

The Warriors best lineup is small, fast and deadly from the perimeter, while the Spurs’ best is tall, long and impenetrable.

The Aussies in the game represent the strengths of the opposition. Andrew Bogut uses size, defense, and veteran savvy on the court, while Patty Mills uses his speed, shooting and pace to get the job done.

Bogut’s minutes are the lowest of his career, but could see a longer stint on the court against the Spurs. Tim Duncan will be resting due to soreness in his right knee (aka Pop’s mind games) his main task will be to stop LaMarcus Aldridge from scoring.

With the Spurs defending the 3-ball so well, Bogut might need to be more aggressive on the offensive end, where he has the 6th best true shooting percentage in the league. Although, you can tell these days he worried about being fouled and going to the line where he shoots 41.4%, so Hack-A-Bogut is a real possibility in this one. Mills has had a tough shooting month in January but has hit some good form in his last game against the Lakers and looks primed for a scoring outburst. The Oracle Arena has been a happy hunting ground for Mills with 3 of his top 8 scoring performances coming at the venue.

The Spurs will need Mills' aggressiveness at both ends in this one, to keep up with the scoring power of the Warriors and to make Steph Curry work on the other end. Whichever way you dice this one, all signs point to this being an epic contest!