After a sensational first half, the Boomers have fallen to Team USA 97-78, with Kevin Durant dominating for the gold medal favourites. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.
It was the biggest game in Boomers history. Win, and the nation will get its first men’s basketball medal in its history. Lose, and the Golden Era group of Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles would likely never have another opportunity to chase an Olympic Gold Medal together again.
Team USA come into this with the weight of the world on their shoulders, needing to live up to the reputation of USA Basketball that has been formed since the Dream Team of 1992.
It was all to play for in the first semi-final of the men’s basketball at Tokyo 2020.
Jinglin’ Joe gets Boomers off to scintillating start
Joe Ingles – knowing he needed to come out of the gates aggressively – did just that. First possession down the court he nailed the three-point attempt, and coming back on transition off of a Team USA turnover and pulled up and hit another.
Frantic, high intensity basketball ensued in the first quarter. At the halfway mark, Australia led 9-6 with buckets hard to come by with frantic, overwhelming defence highlighting proceedings. They then got on a roll out of a time-out rattling off points through tough interior defence and smart offensive play.
With the US keying on Patty Mills, Nic Kay and Matisse Thybulle were able to take advantage with cuts to the rim that were left unguarded.
A huge Chris Goulding three at the quarter-time buzzer, Australia would hold a 24-18 lead in the first term of the semi-final.
Out of the first change, it was the Goulding show. The NBL superstar hit another three, then got fouled on his third attempt and made two-of-three to extend the Boomers’ lead to nine points early in the second term.
Defensive rotations were beautiful – on time and aggressive – with Draymond Green not being guarded. Instead, Jock Landale was clogging the paint, forcing Team USA to take mid-range shots with regularity that the likes of Damian Lillard and Durant were making.
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The Boomers were on a roll in the second term. Incredible defence led to fast transition baskets, with a Mills full-court pass leading to a Thybulle and-one to extend the margin to 13. A Landale alley-oop made it 41-26, and Gregg Popovich was forced to call a time-out and make some adjustments to this start-studded Team USA lineup with 5:23 on the clock in the second quarter.
The Americans got some easy points from the free-throw line, but they still hadn’t hit a three-point shot for the game. Devin Booker finally made their first with three minutes left in the fourth term, but Mills answered with a huge long-ball, having two defenders draped over him as the shot clock was expiring.
Team USA finally found their offence, which basically included getting the ball to Durant, and letting him create his own shot. They enjoyed a 16-4 run to end the half thanks to some sloppy turnovers from the Boomers, cutting the margin to 45-42 at the main change.
Durant led all-comers with 15 points for the half, while Dante Exum was Australia’s top scorer with 10 points and Goulding added to the bench points with eight of his own.
It was all to play for in the second half, with a spot in the gold medal match there for the taking and just three points separating the nations.
Most dominant team of the planet
Four quick points to Jrue Holiday gave Team USA a lead early in the third. With no Thybulle starting for the Boomers, Durant was also getting whatever he wanted, and took advantage of permanent mis-matches by extending the USA lead.
He hit his 23rd point of the game to extend the lead to nine points, but Goorjian still wasn’t ready to call a timeout or bring Thybulle into the match for defensive purposes.
Finally a timeout was called with 4:34 remaining, but the damage had been done. Team USA was up nine points 59-50, and it would take an almighty effort to eclipse that margin with their superstars Booker, Holiday and Durant feeling hot.
The avalanche kept coming, with Booker and Zach Lavine getting what they wanted at the rim or three-point line, while the Boomers couldn’t buy a basket with some dubious umpiring decisions and sloppy turnovers not helping.
With four minutes left in the quarter Goorjian had seen enough down 21 points. In came Josh Green and Duop Reath for their first minutes of the ball game, with the Boomers moving on to thinking abou the bronze medal match.
Booker gave the USA some extra offence as the clock neared zero, finishing with 20 points, while Durant had 23 to lead the side as Team USA ran out 97-78 winners.
Australia got 15 points from the incredible Patty Mills, and Landale contributed 11 from the centre position.
The Boomers will now play for their first ever medal in the bronze medal match. They will face either France or Slovenia, who play off in the other semi-final. France boasts NBA quality in Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nicholas Batum, while Slovenia boasts one of the greatest players in the world Luka Doncic who has been exceptional at the Olympics.
Team USA moves onto the gold medal match, where they will search for their fourth consecutive gold medal at Tokyo 2020.
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