Boomers bounce Tall Blacks in game 1
The Boomers have put in a resounding performance to run out as 71-59 victors over a highly competitive New Zealand Tall Blacks roster, in front of 15,062 fans at Rod Laver Arena - the most to attend a basketball game in Australia since the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Having lost star young gun Dante Exum on the European tour, the pressure was on the Boomers to regroup in their pursuit of a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics, which is exactly what they did.
The Tall Blacks set the tone with the ever aggressive haka, getting as close as possible to the Boomers in a rather fortuitous omen for the match.
Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis was satisfied with the win in front of a supportive home crowd.
The game was as we expected
It was physical, scrappy, and it was always going to be a grind. I thought we did a good job of maintaining our intensity, our commitment to the work required at the defensive end, and it has given ourselves a chance of being successful in this series.
Much like the Opals before them, the Boomers' team chemistry was lacking to begin. Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova was left to attack the rim alone, while the Tall Blacks started well, jumping out to a 13-6 lead with 5:05 remaining. They would maintain a 16-12 lead at the first break.
Having come off the bench in the first quarter, San Antonio Spurs playmaker Patty Mills took the game to the Tall Blacks to start the second term. He ignited the crowed with three buckets in the first 90 seconds to force the pressure back on New Zealand.
Patty and Delly combined well
Dellavedova then picked up where Mills left off, with a momentum swinging three-pointer and another strong finish at the rim to earn, and convert, the and-1. To finish off the quarter, Cameron Bairstow drove home the momentum, hitting a desperate three-point attempt at the end of the shot clock in the final minute, to leave the Boomers up 34-26 at the main break.
The Boomers came out strong after half time and established an 11-point lead, only to see it reduced to 5 on the back of aggressive play from the Tall Blacks. At three-quarter time, with the Boomers ahead 49-44, the game was in the balance.
The stage was set for a frantic final term, with Australia's NBA players delivering in what was a quality display of basketball. Mills again shifted the momentum as a missed New Zealand layup resulted in a transition 3 with 3:39 remaining, giving the Boomers a 58-52 lead. Jarrod Kenny returned fire for the Tall Blacks with a pair of triples to cut the margin to three.
In the end, the extensive talent of the Boomers came through with Asvel-Lyon Villeurbanne's David Andersen hitting a pair of free throws and a two-point field goal to ice the match.
Lemanis cited the Boomers' depth as a key factor is running away with the game.
Ultimately our depth holds us in good stead and that showed out tonight. We had different people step at different times.
It was well worth the last-minute trip back to Australia for Mills. The dynamic guard contributed 17 points with 4 rebounds and 3 assists, to be just one-of-three Boomers to score in double digits. Andersen was also a shining light with 17 points (5/10 FG), combining with Mills for 34 points coming off the bench, while Dellavedova added 15 points (6/9 FG).
The use of backcourt duo Mills and Dellavedova was a highlight, with Dellavedova also contributing 5 rebounds and 4 assists in what was a very good performance from Australia's newest NBA star. The Boomers' rebounding was invaluable in their victory, outdoing the Tall Blacks 38-28 with hustlers Broekhoff (7), Bairstow (5) and Dellavedova (5) leading the way. Noted for their offensive rebounding, the Tall Blacks only managed 6 for the game, a stat that was not lost of Lemanis.
Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare acknowledged the massive crowd, but also the challenge ahead as the both sides head back to New Zealand for game 2.
"For us, it is half time. We are down by 12 at half time. So that was my message to the guys and that is how we have to look at the series. I know our guys are chomping at the bit to get home and try to close this series out at home at Wellington." - Paul Henare
The result leaves the Boomers as heavy favourites to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, however both teams only consider the series at half-time, with a second encounter in Wellington to come. There is a clear class that Mills, Bogut and Dellavedova add to the Boomers that New Zealand just don't possess, but tonight they proved the grit could be close enough to be very dangerous, and Lemanis is well aware of that.
It's a chess match now. We will go and watch some tape, make some adjustments. They will make their adjustments. The key for me is to play with the intensity and desperation that we will need to do over the course of 40minutes to gain the success we are chasing.
2015 FIBA Oceania Championships
Game 1, 15 August: Australian Boomers vs New Zealand Tall Blacks 71-59
Game 2: 18 August: Australian Boomers vs New Zealand Tall Blacks, Wellington (NZ)