For the first time ever, the Australian Boomers have opened an Olympic campaign 2-0. The Aussies finished strongly to knock off Serbia 95-80 in what was a physical, tight affair. The final margin didn't do the game justice, as it was a tight contest up until the final two minutes.
Matthew Dellavedova was nothing short of inspirational. The 2016 NBA Champion was outstanding, delivering 23 points on 7/8 shooting (2/3 3PT) with 13 assists and no turnovers. He kept Australia in the game in the third term with Serbia threatened to pull away. Patty Mills led all scorers with 26 points, ending up being too much for the Europeans to handle.
Miroslav Riduljica was Serbia's best with 25 points, despite having to deal with the likes of Bogut and Baynes down low.
Australia came out firing early, shooting the ball well from the outside. Dellavedova managed 10 early points before being replaced by Kevin Lisch, while big man Andrew Bogut even stepped out to the land of plenty and showed off his shooting touch.
The hot start was capped off by a Patty Mills banked three, after that the Boomers led 19-11 with around 3 minutes to go in the first term. Serbia had Raduljica to thank for keeping it respectable early, at that point of the game he had all but two of their points.
Not long after Nikola Jokic threw down a neat transition dunk, Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic was pinned with a technical foul. A late run from the Boomers' European opponent was halted by back-to-back baskets from David Andersen, with the Aussies going into the first break with a 26-23 lead.
Aron Baynes was given an unsportsmanlike foul early in the second term after a questionable fall from Raduljica. This led to a small run from Serbia, which saw them briefly take the lead. However they were then given another technical foul, and any momentum they had was lost.
Despite some costly turnovers, the Boomers managed to pull away to a 37-30 lead midway through the second quarter. Andrew Bogut received a technical foul of his own for his reaction to a referee's call. The foul was Bogut's third and meant he would sit for the remainder of the half with Baynes who also had 3.
A late run from Serbia, capped off by a Milos Teodosic 3-point play meant that the Aussies would go into the main break trailing by 3. It would have been more if Bogdan Bogdanovic had released his half court heave a little earlier.
At half time Patty Mills had 13 points, while Dellavedova had managed 10 points and 4 assists. For Serbia, x-factor Raduljica had been huge, recording 19 points after two quarters of play. The Aussies hot-shooting in the opening quarter didn't continue into the second, going 0-7 from downtown. It was a tense, tough battle between two teams refusing to give any ground.
Teodosic came out firing after the break, nailing back-to-back triples. However they were answered by Dellavedova. He nailed a three of his own, assisted Bogut on a basket, and then converted an impressive three-point play.
After only managing two points each in the first half, Nikola Jokic and Bogdanovic got loose as the teams traded baskets midway through the third. Neither side was able to capitalise on their opposition's turnovers, as the game got increasingly frantic and scrappy.
Andrej Lemanis was forced to call a timeout after Bogdanovic finished in transition pushing the lead out to 4 points for Serbia. An unsportsmanlike foul called on Jokic sent Matthew Dellavedova to the line where he knocked down 1-of-2 and then made another basket on the following possession. Dellavedova's play kept the Boomers in touch when Serbia threatened to pull away.
Andersen nailed a tough three-pointer with time winding down in the quarter, meaning the Boomers would go into the final break trailing by just 1 point.
Early in 4th quarter, Andrew Bogut was given his fourth personal foul and Andrej Lemanis took no chances with the big man and subbed him out immediately. Baynes then stepped it up, finishing two alley-oop plays and drawing a charge on Raduljica down the other end.
Sweet ball movement from the Aussies led to Patty Mills connecting on another triple, pushing the lead out to 6 points. Not too long after, the San Antonio Spur was in the action again converting an impressive three point play when he blew past his opponent to the rim.
Joe Ingles was called for an unsportsmanlike foul after he bought down a driving Jokic. Nemanja Nedovic converted a lay-up on the following possession, thus cutting the lead back to 4. Bogut checked back in and immediately got involved, making an important put-back off a Mills missed shot to maintain distance. Nedovic answered right back with a tip-in of his own down the other end, again reducing the deficit to 4.
That was as close as Serbia got. Joe Ingles registered his first field goal, nailing a corner trey as the Boomers sensed victory was in sight. Mills then knocked down a transition jumper, before Jingles found the bottom of the net again from deep. The Aussies didn't let up either, with Mills converted an and-1 to push the lead out to 15 and that was were it would finish.
The Boomers will be extremely happy with the result, especially considering the physicality of the game. Bench production might be the only concern for Lemanis, with the Aussie second unit only managing 17 points. Australia's ability to move the ball and make the extra pass was again great to watch.
Dellavedova and Mills received great support from Bogut who added 9 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocked shots. Baynes also impressed again with 10 points and 6 rebounds, while Andersen contributed 9 points and 6 rebounds. After a slow start, Ingles would also finish with 10 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists.
Australia's ability to hit from beyond the arc late in the game helped, outpointing Serbia by connecting at 36% compared to 23%, while also bettering their opponents by shooting 58% from the field (Serbia 47%).
The Boomers have now accounted for the number 5 and 6 teams in the world in France and Serbia. Next up for Australia is a date with Team USA. This should be a great test to see just where the Boomers are at, and confidence must be sky high after a record start to the tournament. Can they cause the upset of the tournament?
Watch the Boomers take on Team USA from 8:00am AEST on Thursday morning.