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How the Boomers made us believe again
It’s fair to say that the Boomers' loss to Serbia on Saturday was the low point of an otherwise incredible Olympic campaign for the boys in green and gold.
The talent is at an all-time high, boasting four NBA champions and five NBA players overall. Despite the loss on Saturday, the level of play has been at a similarly elite level.
However this squad wasn't given the respect it has earned now. A declaration to the world that the Boomers expected to win the gold medal in the Olympics, was not taken as a serious possibility by the basketball world at large, prior to the commencement of the Olympics.
The Boomers eventually earned respect with consistent brilliance all tournament. A strong defensive identity at the core of this stacked squad, coupled with gutsy effort plays and effective teamwork have culminated in a strong display by the Aussies.
They had to grind out victories against a tough French squad and an even more challenging Serbian team. During both games, the team made late game pushes centred around an oppressive defensive effort and textbook fast-paced offensive basketball. The Boomers asserted that they were a real threat to take a medal.
During an incredible performance against a star-studded Team USA, the Boomers fought their way into contention for the medal. The Boomers came out and attacked the Americans, getting under the collective skin of some of the best players in the world.
“In terms of on-court stuff, disruptive defense and being a team that is just consistently annoying to play against defensively, is something we strive to be,” Andrej Lemanis had promised of the Boomers, pre-tournament.
And so they clawed. They battled. They annoyed. They made us proud.
Behind for the majority of the game, the Coach K led team had to be carried to a victory by the offensive firepower of Kyrie Irving and two time gold medallist Carmelo Anthony.
Despite the loss, the Boomers made us believe again.
They became a powerhouse in the tournament, rolling over China, Venezuela and Lithuania before falling to Serbia. Simply put, they have been overwhelming and marvellous.
The back court play has been dominant, with Patty Mills averaging just under 20 points per game (3rd in average points per game) and has played extremely well off of the great passing of Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova. Delly meanwhile has been turning in seven assists a game and made opposing point guards extremely uncomfortable.
The point guard from Maryborough has been a revelation. He’s provided an incredible combination of youthful energy and veteran-like intelligence that has been the spark that lights the collective fire that makes the Boomers so formidable. The Milwaukee Bucks floor general has been the on-court leader that is the perfect match for the emotional leadership of the team’s premier big man.
Andrew Bogut, who was previously an inconsistent luxury to have on the Boomers squad, has become the kind of leader that the national team has been needing. This is besides the fact that he is well and truly in the conversation when it comes to deciding who the best performer has been in the Olympics as a whole.
Joe Ingles has been a consistent contributor, particularly in slashing to the ring and defending elite wing players for extended periods of time. Aron Baynes adds another big body to stand beside Bogut that has been effective in implementing a rough style of play that suits the Australian style of play.
Even guys with smaller roles have done more than enough to make any Boomers fan excited. Chris Goulding turned over a 22 point performance against Venezuela, Lisch and Broekhoff have had solid stints off the bench and the elder statesman David Andersen and Damian Martin have played big in some key moments.
In terms of cultural impact, the Boomers were the hottest topic in the global sporting world after the USA game, coupled with Bogut's post game remarks instilling a professionalism and relentlessness that is required of any contending international team with the letters USA on their chest.
The energy was back. The Boomers were back. People finally started to believe Australia could actually win. Not only domestically, but also overseas.
All of these positive events have transpired in one Olympic games, without even considering the astounding success of Aussies in the NBA and the potential of future teams. This is precisely why we should not overreact to one bad performance.
Granted, it was an obviously egregiously awful performance. But it would be silly for us to throw away the greatness that has been the 2016 Rio Olympic Boomers. Tonight against Spain they have a chance at redemption and to prove their true character.
A chance to put their collective spirit on show on the global stage and cement their place as the greatest Boomers team of all time.