How the Australian Boomers got back on track in their win over Japan
It wasn't quite perfect, but the Boomers did more than enough to get past Japan and earn their spot in the second round of the World Cup.
While the performance wasn't perfect, it was the outcome the Australian Boomers needed to keep their World Cup dream alive. With a 109-89 win over Japan in Okinawa, Australia secured their passage through to the second round of the tournament. A loss would have relegated them to the dreaded classification games; instead, they will play for a ticket to Manila and a quarterfinal berth this week.
Beyond just the result, and all that came with it, the performance represented a step in the right direction for a Boomers squad that is still finding its feet. They came out of the blocks well, piling on points at a frenetic pace to blow Japan out of the water before they could settle. By half-time the lead was 22 points, with enough legwork done early in the contest for some minor second-half missteps to be rendered harmless.
“I just think the blueprint for our success, what we’ve come and talked about leading into this, the small ball, the switching, the defence, the blueprint was the first half,” Australian coach Brian Goorjian said postgame.
Japan made their runs, most notably ending the third term with a 14-4 surge that cut Australia’s lead to 17 at the final change, and again in the fourth to trail by 15 with less than three minutes remaining. The home side actually won the second half, a big tick of approval for coach Tom Hovasse and his team, but by then the damage had been done.
For Australia, the result ensured that they would move on to the second round, where they will face Slovenia on Friday and Group F’s runner-up, most likely Georgia, on Sunday. It also moved the Boomers one step closer to a place at the 2024 Paris Olympics – with just one automatic qualifying spot available for the Oceania region, a loss would have left the door open for New Zealand to snatch it by progressing to the second round.
There will be things to clean up from last night’s game — allowing 35 points in the third term would be jarring for a team that prides itself on defence — but there were plenty more positives than negatives. Most importantly, the Boomers will be able to seek answers to their issues while still playing for a medal.
Offence in rhythm
Two days after ticking over 300 World Cup points in his career, it took until the second quarter for Patty Mills to hit the scoreboard last night. In Australia’s first two games, that scenario would have been disastrous. Mills had 20-plus points in each of those contests, shouldering a heavy offensive load, and he was the only Boomer to score in the first six minutes against Germany. On this night, though, it was inconsequential, as the Boomers piled on 57 first-half points to effectively put the game to bed.
For as good as Mills has been again this tournament, Australia’s true offensive upside rests with Giddey, and he was in complete control of the game from start to finish.
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