It was always hard to tell what exactly we would be getting in the first game against Canada, when the FIBA 2019 World Cup tipped off.
Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis told us, it was about meshing the skillsets that would provide for an ideal outcome - the long-coveted medal. Having Canada as exhibition game partners definitely helped as a reality check, even with Canada's leading guard, Cory Joseph absent.
But Australia came away with the win, despite a third quarter that could have been better. Here are some quick thoughts following the Boomers' 108-92 win against Canada, in the group stage of the FIBA 2019 World Cup.
1. Ingles does it all
Joe Ingles was a major impact all game long, and was the best Boomer on the court. His length and basketball IQ has helped him pick off Canada's passes and generate turnovers, and his solid impact as the playmaker who generated easy baskets for his teammates cannot be denied. His impact was especially felt in the fourth quarter, when he made five assists out of those 11 Boomers field goals.
The swingman had 13 points (2/6 from 3P), led the team with 9 assists and had 3 steals, 5 rebounds in almost 34 minutes of playing time.
2. The revamped Delly three pays off
No one could have predicted that Dellavedova would be the Boomers top three-point scorer this game. That off-season work on improving his jumper has definitely paid dividends this game.
Delly's shot returned with a vengeance, and he ended the game with a team-leading 24 points, on 6/10 shooting from the perimeter and hitting the shots when it mattered, right when the outcome hung in the balance.
3. Turnovers an Achilles heel for Boomers
Turnovers need to be cut down. The Boomers had 10 at the half, which isn't a pretty number. That trend did not abate in the second half either, with a 12-point lead rapidly evaporating on the back of multiple turnovers.
"We weren’t ready to go at the start of the third quarter and when you are playing quality opposition, they can put points on the board quick," Goulding shared post-game. "We got slapped in the face a little bit, we realised the situation we were in and picked it up again and managed to get a good solid win."
Credit to Canada for mounting that comeback in the third quarter. Solid defence powered quick offence, that led to easy baskets. An unsportsmanlike foul on Landale tied the game for Canada, three minutes into the second half, and a Pangos corner three turned things around right after. Canada ended up with a 37-point third quarter, and led by 1 at the end of that 10-minute frame, the most points in a quarter the nation has ever scored in a FIBA World Cup.
The game ended with 13 Australian turnovers, thanks to an outstanding zero-turnover fourth quarter that cleaned things up and held Canada to only 8 points in the first 9 minutes of that final frame.
Chris Goulding did some really good things in the first quarter, with two drives and a three that solidifies his standing as the Boomers' bench sparkplug, and possibly one of the Boomers' most reliable scorers. The Melbourne United guard finished the game with 16 points in almost 18 minutes of play, on an incredibly effective 6/7 scoring performance.
Landale started in this game along with Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, and Aron Baynes. From quick roll action that got him mismatches, one on one action for his bread and butter low post action, to catch and shoot threes and putback dunks, Landale's presence on the court has opened the team's options up. It's not just his scoring either - the big man has a knack of finding the open teammate out on the perimeter, and not forcing the offence. Landale finished with 8 points (3/7 FG), and a +12.
Cory Joseph's return has changed Canada's scoring complexion. His scoring, speed and aggression in getting to the rim was limited by foul trouble, three fouls in the second quarter reduced his impact.
Australia started out with a focus on getting the ball inside, and this paid off. The Boomers began getting to the free throw line early in the first quarter, and had 10 attempts in that first ten minutes. Making 8 of those 10 at the charity stripe helped the Boomers stay ahead, 29-20 at the end of the first, and a 52-40 lead at half-time.
"We shot 70% from inside the arc, part of that was because we wanted to get in there and share the ball and we had 24 assists as a result of that," Lemanis said. "That’s something with Boomers teams that you never have to question, everybody’s willingness to play in the best interest of the group and execute their role in the best interest of the team."
A related tangent: Australia's reduced three-point shot attempts as well. In comparison to those earlier Perth games against Canada where the team averaged 32.5 attempts per game (6/34, then 12/31), the team only took 27 threes in total (12 at the half) and made them at 41%.
Khem Birch continues to be the rim attacking nightmare who's making smart reads off-ball, and getting easy scoring opportunities. Birch had 18 points this game on an efficient 7/11 FG%.
"Having multiple scorers really kept Canada guessing - Landale, Ingles, Mills, Goulding, Delly and Bogut all with double digits meant that they had to play us honest throughout, and that was a big difference down the stretch," Coach Will Smith shared. "They couldn’t know where our scores were coming from, but we could hedge on Panos and Joseph and Birch. But we could gamble a bit and try to make someone else do something for them- and they couldn’t.
"I did however, like the [guts] of [Canada head coach Nick] Nurse to go to what looked like a matchup zone in the 3rd, and maybe even a triangle and 2 defence. That confused Australia for a few minutes and helped to get them back in the game."
Now that the first win is locked down, Australia needs at least another win to advance, with an eye on point differential as a potential tiebreaker. They then play two games against the two best teams that emerge from Group G, which could include either, or both of France and Germany. (Germany took a 74-64 win against Australia in the Boomers' last warmup game.)
Box score is available on the FIBA World Cup website.
The Australian Boomers play Senegal next in the group stage, on 3 Sep 2019, Tuesday at 5:30pm AEST. For Australian fans, the Boomers’ run in the 2019 FIBA World Cup can be viewed on Kayo Sports and Foxtel.
Australian Boomers schedule for 2019 FIBA World Cup: (All times AEST)
September 3: Boomers vs. Senegal, 5:30pm
September 5: Boomers vs. Lithuania, 9:30pm
September 7 & 9: Round of 16
September 10 & 11: Quarter-Finals
September 13: Semi-Finals
September 15: Medal Games