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Basketball bronze on the line

21 August 2016

BASKETBALL: Australia will face Spain for the bronze medal and a place in the history books in the men’s basketball competition.

Three times previously the Australian men’s team has played for the bronze medal and on each occasion fallen short.

The 2016 edition is considered by most experts as the finest men’s team to contest an Olympic Games and, with five wins from seven games in Rio, a medal is within reach.

Spain started the tournament slowly but has hit good form as the Olympics have gone on.

The Spanish squad won silver at the past two Olympics and narrowly went down to the United States in the semi-final, 82-76.

Serbia ended Australia’s gold medal hopes in the semi-final by winning 87-61, but the Aussies believe they will respond well to that loss.

“We have an opportunity and want to make the most of it,” guard Matthew Dellavedova said.

“We have to come out on the front foot.

“Spain is a powerhouse. They’ve been good for a number of years.”

Coach Andrej Lemanis expects his team to be ready for the challenge ahead.

“I know this group and the pride they have in the way they play the game and the way they represent Australian basketball on the international stage,” Lemanis said.

“It’s an opportunity to do something that men’s basketball that hasn’t been achieved before.

“The pride in the group, the desire to showcase Australian basketball. I’m confident that we will come out and play the right way.

“It’s the first time we have been challenged in the tournament where things haven’t gone our way and it’s a good test of character to ensure we bounce back and come out and represent ourselves in the bronze medal game.”

Patty Mills leads the Australians in scoring at 19.8 points per game, third highest average in the tournament.

Dellavedova is second in assists at 6.9 per game, while Andrew Bogut (10.3 points) and Aron Baynes (10.1 points) are also averaging in double figures.

Pau Gasol has led the Spanish team well, averaging 17.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

The game will tip-off on Sunday at 11:30am on Sunday in Rio (12:30am Monday AEST).

Kevin Diggerson

olympics.com.au

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