An impressive debut win over Canada on Sunday, led by Matthew Dellavedova and Joe Ingles set expectations for the Australian Boomers for the FIBA 2019 World Cup.
Sure, the Canada game wasn't perfect. There was that third quarter when a porous Australian defence allowed 37 points in ten minutes, when Canada only scored 40 points in the entire first half. Thankfully, the final frame on Sunday showed us an impressive 32-15 quarter, anchored by stout defence and a scoring surge.
Against Senegal on Tuesday afternoon in Dongguan, China, the Boomers secured a victory that turned out to be much tougher than anyone expected, with a final score of 81-68. Some quick reactions follow the aftermath of this second Group H game for Australia.
As Matt mentioned in his preview, turnovers were a potential pitfall, considering Senegal's advantage in speed and athleticism. There was a concern that turnovers might lead to fast breaks on the open court- something that would favour Senegal.
The Boomers did not look prepared for the defensive pressure Senegal displayed; their length and athleticism posed challenges, especially in the first quarter. This proved to be a factor in the game. Passes went slightly awry on kick out passes and to the roll men on pick and roll plays, leading to lost possessions. Jock Landale had his ball poked away twice by Maurice Ndour in the first half, both of which resulted in made baskets from Senegal.
The Boomers had 5 TOs in the first quarter, and 9 at the half. It wasn't a significant improvement over the earlier Canada game, when Australia finished halftime with 10 turnovers. The Boomers finished with 16 turnovers.
Senegal's offensive plan was rudimentary at best. They seldom capitalised on screens and/or switches. Actions often started from the low post, and ended in shots that were less than ideal. Despite poor shot selection, Senegal's ferocity on offensive rebounding --four in the first quarter, and another four in the second-- gave them a lifeline and plenty of second chance baskets in the first half.
It was the reason why Senegal trailed only by 2 points in the first quarter, 16-18 - they took a staggering 21 shots over Australia's 12. The Boomers cleaned this up in the second half, and secured their possessions much better to wrap the game up.
3. Offensive execution
The Boomers went with a starting lineup of Mills, Dellavedova, Ingles, Baynes and Landale. The team struggled early in scoring - they were trailing Senegal 0-5 in the first few minutes, before Aron Baynes made their first basket with a hook shot. The game became 4-9 in favour of Senegal, after the first three minutes passed.
Offensively, the plan looked a little different from Sunday's game - there was less of a focus to get Landale the ball in the post.
Like the earlier Canada game, Joe Ingles' playmaking came to the fore. The swingman was undisputedly the Boomers' best player. He nearly had a triple-double with 17 points (4/6 3P), 10 assists and 9 rebounds, and was instrumental in leading the team to this win. Ingles was clinically dissecting Senegal's defence, moving with his typical precise, unhurried pace, constantly probing and finding seams to dish a pass to his teammates.
Bogut, who's often functioned in the same role with the Golden State Warriors, became the Boomers' secondary facilitator, offering a creative release valve when Ingles was being actively denied. Ingles and Bogut combined for 8 assists in the first half.
Meanwhile, Mills playing off-ball proved hard to stop for Senegal, especially when he had the benefit of multiple screeners. The Boomers guard finished with a team-high 22 points, on 8 of 16 from the field. More than anything else, getting defensive stops powered by Ingles playmaking proved the key to the Boomers' win. An unsportsmanlike foul was called on Ndour, following contact on Mills, and took the game to 73-64 with Australia's lead, with less than three minutes left. It also retained possession for the Boomers, and put the game away for good.
Loading: Dellavedova, Mills and Ingles all played more than 30 minutes, but Bogut was still rested with a light 18 minute stint. Baynes played approximately 21 minutes.
There was discussion before the game, about point differential and how it could prove to be a tiebreaker. Suffice to say, Lithuania's 101-47 win over Senegal won the numbers game.
Chris Goulding looked good once again. Despite only having 6 points on 20 minutes of play, he defended well, and provided decent scoring when the opportunity presented itself, without forcing the situation.
Three-point shooting: Senegal's non-existent perimeter shooting --the team shot 4.3% (1/23) against Lithuania-- returned somewhat. Despite making only 5 of 21 threes, it was one of the reasons they hung around all game, and ended the third quarter only trailing by 10. Delly's three-point shooting (0/3) was sorely missed this game. Led by Mills and Goulding, the team ended up shooting 9 of 23 from deep.
And finally, my favourite play of the game:
"Overall, our quality shone through. The Australian system held firm, while in contrast - the seeming lack of system with Senegal was a reflection of the turmoil they have had off-court. Their plays consisted of a middle pick and roll, with the other three guys standing and watching," Basketball coach, Will Smith shared. "In contrast, again, we had multiple avenues to score. Baynes and Bogut were big targets rolling for alley oops and dump offs, and if the defence helped too much, that opened up our shooters - Patty etc.
"Overall, we did what we had to do. We have pretty well booked a second-round ticket, whilst the final game with Lithuania is poised as an important one that will have the win carry forward onto the next stage. I expect the guys to turn up their intensity from the start in the next game. We can’t afford the same energy levels from here on out in the tournament."
Box score is available on the FIBA World Cup website.
The Australian Boomers play Lithuania next in the group stage on 5 Sep 2019, Thursday at 9:30pm 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 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