Australia dominate Lithuania and shoot to semis
18 August 2016
BASKETBALL: The Australian men’s team is not only one victory away from its first Olympic Games medal after easily disposing of Lithuania 90-64 to move to the semi-final stage.
While the world looks at the American Dream Team as untouchables, the tight-knit Australian team dares to dream for a gold medal.
And they could not have been more emphatic in their step towards that goal, leading all the way in an excellent all-team effort, running out 90-64 victors.
It has set up a semi-final showdown with the winner of the Croatia v Serbia quarter-final which is played at 10.15pm in Rio (11.15am AEST Thursday). A win there would give our men, presumably, a rematch with red-hot gold medal favourites, USA.
Asked why this Australian team is different than any previous ones, Andrew Bogut replied: “Because we believe, we believe we can beat teams. It comes with our mindset, we’re a resilient group that plays hard.
“I’ve been on teams where we say all that but there’s still that doubt there.
“We’ve had a lot of success individually – Delly [Matthew Dellavedova], Patty [Mills] and myself have won a ring [in the NBA] and been part of what it takes to be at the pinnacle in this sport.
“And we have a lot of guys who play hard and enjoy being around each other and when you have that it works wonders for you.”
Coach Andrej Lemanis also didn’t want to shy away from what he thought his team was capable of.
“We've always spoken about gold, and right now we’re not satisfied," Lemanis said. “When we spoke about that as a goal of ours there were some people who scoffed in the community but we backed ourselves. For us, that’s still our goal.”
Our men certainly began with intent with Dellavedova landing two three-pointers in the opening two minutes, and they did not relent.
“To come out and sink his first two three-point shots just broke the game open,” said Bogut. “He doesn’t get a lot of credit for his scoring but he can shoot the ball pretty well, and he has been very aggressive for us outing pressure on the defence especially the way he passes the ball.”
Patty Mills proved difficult for the physical Lithuanian defence to handle and was in great touch from outside the arc.
Big men Bogut and Aaron Baynes were strong under the basket with Baynes particularly dominant in the second half of the match. However, it was the combined contributions of men like David Andersen, Joe Ingles, Ryan Broekhoff and Damian Martin that was not unnoticed.
The Aussies led 17-9 less than six minutes in after gaining five turnovers and dominating offensive rebounds. Another Dellavedova three on the buzzer gave them a 26-17 quarter-time lead with ‘Dellavedova (10) and Mills (11) on fire.
By half-time Australian had stretched the lead to 48-30 with Mills and Bogut enjoying a long rest. Mills and Dellavedova had landed seven three-pointers between them at 50 per cent as they scored 31 of Australia’s 48 points (Mills 16, Dellavedova 15) – more than the Lithuanian team - with Ingles also stepping up.
Lithuanians Jonas Valanciunas and Mindaugas Kuzminskas had aggressively dominated the rebound with 20 between them in the opening two quarters in a good tussle with Aussie big men Baynes and Bogut.
The Lithuanian defence tired and opened up in the third quarter and the Australians were able to often find Baynes under the basket with four dunks in the third quarter as his side went to a 70-43 lead.
Mills, Bogut, Dellavedova and Baynes played little of the final quarter as other squad members were given valuable time but the Australians maintained their big lead.
Top scorers were Mills (24), Baynes (16), Dellavedova (15) and Ingles (10).
Mills, with 21.2 points per match, is the second highest scorer at the Rio Olympic Games behind Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic.
There are some other stats that support the supposition that this Australian team is the real deal: they are second to France in total field goal success (51.7 per cent), two-pointers (59.2 per cent), second to USA with points scored per match (89 per cent compared to the Dream Team’s runaway 104.8) and, reflecting their style they play, are on top with assists (26.7 per cent).
Neil Cadigan olympics.com.au