Dare to Dream: Boomers vs. USA

Picture courtesy of FIBA

Boomers vs. USA Preview

The Boomers are in great shape on their quest for gold in Rio after two resounding wins against their biggest rivals for second place in Group A.

Now comes the biggest test of exactly how far our boys can go.

The Boomers will face the U.S. in group play at 8 a.m. AEST on Thursday.

“Everyone else has to catch up [to America],” Andrew Bogut said after the win over Serbia.

There’s not a team in the field that’s expected to beat the Americans, but that won’t stop any of them from trying and the Boomers are no exception.

“You want to go over to the Olympic Games to achieve greatness by beating great teams and that’s what we have in front of us, so it’s a great opportunity for us to be able to do that,” said Patty Mills when the final Boomers roster was announced last month.

The self-belief is great and the way the Boomers have backed that up has been impressive, but facing Team USA is an entirely different proposition.

“It is what it is,” Bogut said. “They’ve lost games before in the past. But obviously they are the favourites and probably if you put a million dollars on them you’ll get a dollar back if you bet on them. That’s a great challenge for us. That will really put us in the mindset of seeing what we have to do to make our offence and defence better.”

Through the first two games, the U.S. has an average margin of victory of 50.5 points. Granted, they’ve faced China and Venezuela, the teams predicted to bring up the rear of the Group A standings, but any chemistry or shooting woes the Americans had during their warmup games have been well and truly ironed out.

They are playing unselfishly and have clearly come together for a common goal, which is no surprise with Mike Krzyzewski at the helm.

The same is true of the Boomers though, and they will be the toughest opponent Team USA has faced since it began training in Las Vegas last month.

“They can beat us,” Krzyzewski said on Tuesday. “We know that, and we’ll prepare accordingly.”

The Boomers are playing a gritty and gutsy style, starting at the defensive end where they pressure, trap and play physically, and those are the exact traits Andrej Lemanis identified when selecting this squad.

Great intensity, pride in the Boomers jersey, defensive hustle and execution were called out before the team left Australia.

“The disruptive defence, being a team that’s just consistently annoying to play defensively is something we strive to be,” said Lemanis.

Through two games, that has been evident as they pressured France into 17 turnovers and kept Serbia to just 39.1 percent from the field.

The Americans only brought two point guards in Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry, but also have several other players used to handling the ball such as Paul George, Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler.

They were turnover-prone in their warmup games and still are a little, averaging 10 through the first two games (Australia is averaging eight), so perhaps there is merit to unleashing that press in this game.

Can the Boomers defensive pressure work against the U.S.?

“I guess we’ll see,” said Lemanis pre-tournament. “We’ll be smart and we need to play our style and what we believe in.”

At the offensive end, Lemanis wanted “a team that shares the ball, spreads the floor and plays for the right reasons, and people sacrifice for the good of the team.”

If you want to see a shining example of that, just look at Matthew Dellavedova so far. He’s averaging 11.5 assists and has committed just one turnover in the first two games.

Against Serbia, he had 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, dished out 13 assists, had two steals and remarkably committed zero turnovers.

“We saw one of the all-time great performances in the Australian uniform today by Matthew Dellavedova,” Andrew Gaze told Fox Sports Australia.

But the unselfish play and smart execution doesn’t stop there. Andrew Bogut has dished out 11 assists—from the five spot.

Overall, the Boomers have scored 65 field goals with 54 assists. The ball is moving constantly and it’s resulting in good shots. Mills has headlined the scoring attack, which is his role, but if you look at who scored in that great final quarter against Serbia, it was distributed quite evenly.

Mills had 12 of his 26 in the fourth, while Joe Ingles had eight, Aron Baynes six, with Delly, Bogut and David Andersen all scoring, too. Eleven field goals with seven assists in the fourth is testament to the execution this team has to display to be successful.

Of course things will be tougher against the length and defensive pressure of the U.S., which is very disruptive. It’s forced 42 turnovers in its first two games, so the Boomers will need to be extra careful. Turn it over against these guys and you may as well look up for a dunk.

Picture courtesy of FIBA

Getting to the rim will also be more challenging with DeAndre Jordan lurking, but when he’s off the floor, our bigs can challenge DeMarcus Cousins inside, as he’s not as athletic as Jordan.

Having said that, Team USA’s help defence is the best in this tournament and if you beat your man, don’t be surprised to see Green, George, Butler or Kevin Durant come over to help and use that length to disrupt your shot.

However, if the Boomers are disciplined and patient, then they can score against this team.

What will be interesting is if Lemanis actually chooses to go for it or uses a game we’re not expected to win to get our starters some rest in the lead-up to the knockout phase. I’m not sure the pride of our guys will allow that to happen, but resting Bogut for this one, or at least reducing his minutes, would seem sensible.

It would also allow Lemanis to play Brock Motum, Chris Goulding and Damian Martin, who’ve seen limited court time to date, as you never know when they may be needed.

However, messing with the team’s chemistry at this point could be risky. We saw that in Spain in 2014.

“We’re going out there to win the game,” Ingles said after beating Serbia. “I think we got a team that’s focused on that. We believe we can do some special things in this tournament.”

Whatever the outcome on Thursday, it’s always fun to watch our boys test themselves against the best. We get a free look at the U.S. in this tournament as opposed to having faced them in the quarter-finals in London four years ago.

One thing is certain though: friendships between teammates will be put aside. Delly vs. Kyrie; Bogut vs. Barnes and his old buddies Klay and Draymond; and Bairstow vs. former teammate Butler.

Some of them may have won a ring together recently, but national pride is on the line now.

Word is Green has also finally figured out who the Boomers are. If he hasn’t yet, he will on Thursday.

Buckle up.


Follow me on Twitter @tomhersz

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Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball

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