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Olympics: Can the Boomers beat Serbia?
Australia opened their 2016 Rio Olympics campaign with a commanding 87-66 win over France. The 21-point victory was Australia’s first in an opening game of an Olympics campaign since 1996 in Atlanta and affirmed the Boomers' mantra of going for gold.
To the eyes of the world, the win by the 11th ranked Boomers against the world number 5 ranked France was an upset. Their next opponents are no slouches either, world number 6 ranked Serbia.
So can the Boomers beat Serbia? Let's take a look at the Serbians...
Serbia is a tight, experienced team, led by the dangerous play of 2016 Euroleague champion Miloš Teodosić, one of the best point guards in Europe over the past decade. The 2014 FIBA World Cup silver medalists are also big, strong and well-drilled. Expect discipline and execution and a team that will never quit.
Their recent form has been impressive. While they were 4th in Eurobasket last year, they crushed the opposition at the Olympic Qualification Tournament to make the field for Rio.
With Teodosić running the point, the Boomers will have to contain the scoring output of Denver Nugget Nikola Jokic and Fenerbahce guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. Big man Jokic and the sweet-shooting Bogdanovic, led Serbia in scoring in qualifying for Rio, both delivering 17.8 points per game. Jokic was named tournament MVP, and expect him to be the go-to play when they face the Boomers.
Serbia easily accounted for lowly Venezuela in their opening game at Rio, running away with an 86-62 victory behind a 26-9 second period. Bogdanovic starred, connecting on 3-of-5 from beyond the arc in adding a game-high 19 points. 7-foot center Miroslav Raduljica also impressed in compiling 18 points on a super-efficient 7-of-8 shooting alongside 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
For the Boomers to win, they will need to disrupt Serbia's half-court sets and that starts with hounding Teodosić. Keeping that in mind that Bogdanovic is also a serious threat and standing at 6'6, Mills will have to guard Teodosić while the taller Dellavedova will likely to get the job on Bogdanovic. Head coach Andrej Lemanis has options to throw at the talented Serbia shooters, and will continue to rotate his players to keep the pressure up all game to wear their opponents down.
Raduljica will not be afforded the same space and nor have the same advantage as he did against the Venezuelans when he goes up against Australia. Neither with Jokic, as Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes will make life extremely difficult at both ends. Cameron Bairstow played a great role against the French, and expect him to take a defensive job in this game also.
Serbia's discipline, organisation and team work in the half court will prove a real challenge to Australia at bot ends. Both teams have deep, experienced rosters. It will come down to which team can stick to the game plan and execute better.
Expect Serbia to fight out the game to the end, just as Australia will never say die. This is going to be a tough, close and potentially grinding affair if Australia are not able to push the tempo. Serbia were challenged by Venezuela's athleticism, so if the Boomers can up the tempo, this could be to their distinct advantage.
Both teams are aiming to be 2-0 after this game, and are both yet to confront Team USA. The winner of this battle could well finish top 2 in Group A and be well placed for the knockout rounds so the stakes are high.
Australia's team work and execution in their impressive win against France should not be underestimated. If they can replicate somewhere close to that form, then the Boomers should get home in a very tight game.
The Boomers take on Serbia on Tuesday morning at 3:15am AEST.
Check out out how to watch the Boomers during the Olympics HERE.