What went wrong in the Boomers' loss to Germany?
Another slow start, defensive concerns, some Patty Mills history in Australia's first loss at the FIBA 2023 World Cup.
It was a game that had it all —big-time shot-making, trash talking, plenty of swearing, and a frantic finish— and at the end of it all, the Australian Boomers were handed their first loss of the FIBA 2023 World Cup.
The 85-82 defeat to Germany doesn’t end Australia’s hopes in the tournament, with their destiny still in their own hands, but it was a reminder of the challenges ahead in pursuit of a first World Cup medal.
The Germans came into the contest without star forward Franz Wagner, with the 22-year-old injuring his ankle in Friday’s win over Japan. That didn’t stop his teammates from recording a huge win that will likely see them top Group E and advance into the second group phase unscathed.
For the Boomers, the loss makes Tuesday's clash with host nation Japan a must-win game. There were chances to steal the win last night, with the team hanging on after a slow start left them trailing by as much as 11 points, but some sloppiness in key moments brought them undone. A missed free throw from Josh Giddey and a turnover from Mills inside the last minute were the nails in the coffin, although debate is still raging over whether Giddey’s last-second heave to tie the game should have drawn a whistle from the referees.
“I’m proud of the way our guys are competing, we gave ourselves a chance,” Boomers head coach Brian Goorjian said postgame. “I thought it came down to a couple of little things maybe that were out of our control, and we were right there.”
Slow start strikes again
Once again, the Boomers were sluggish out of the gates, with Germany scoring the first eight points of the contest and ripping off a 16-5 run inside the opening five minutes. It is becoming a worrying trend for this squad, dating back to their warmup games in Melbourne, and it clearly left Goorjian fuming. He tried to light a fire under his team with an early timeout, labelling their efforts “embarrassing” and unleashing some salty language that left ESPN apologising to viewers at home.
“When I’m hard like that is when the effort, the controllable stuff, is off, and I just thought the first four minutes, five minutes of the game, we had two or three guys on the floor asleep,” Goorjian said.
There wasn’t an immediate response, as the Boomers continued to struggle defensively through the first two quarters. That left them trailing by five at halftime, the first time they have been down at the main break in a World Cup game since 2016. While they were able to fight and stay close from that point on, they weren’t able to come back and win as they did against Finland.
Speaking after that opening night win against Finland, Josh Giddey was eerily accurate in looking ahead to this game. “We play Germany in a few nights, and a slow start against a team like that, it’s hard to dig yourself out of a hole,” he said.
With the second group stage fast approaching, and only two quarter-final spots available at the end of it, Goorjian and his staff will now need to search for a quick fix.
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