Boomers, Opals hit winning ways
12 June 2012
Australia's men's basketball team recorded a thrilling series-clinching 69-65 win over China on Monday night in Albany.
The Boomers, who defeated China 66-55 on Saturday night, led at every break but had to overcome a sluggish start to the second quarter to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-game series.
Guard Matthew Dellavedova, looking to shine in the absence of star Patty Mills, finished with 11 points and two clutch free-throws at the death.
The two sides meet again on Wednesday, but Mills won't join his teammates until they arrive in Melbourne for final London Olympic preparations - a three-match series against Greece later this month.
Mills, who was involved in the NBA playoffs with the San Antonio Spurs, looked to be sorely missed in the opening half.
China had eased to a 13-point lead in the second term and the hosts' shooting had slumped to 30 per cent before they rediscovered their mojo.
The Boomers went on a 14-0 run to end the first half, and were never headed despite some tense moments in the final quarter.
The two sides traded baskets in the dying moments before Aron Baynes delivered a telling lay-up with 32 seconds left on the clock, giving the Boomers a five-point advantage.
A three-pointer from China's Sun Yue, who top-scored for the game with 22 points, ensured more drama but young gun Dellavedova iced the game with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Dellavedova was sent to the line and made both free-throws to put the game out of reach.
Baynes top scored for Australia with 15 points.
Meanwhile in Europe...
The Opals have exorcised the demons of 2010 and defeated the Czech Republic, the team that eliminated them from the last FIBA World Championship, on the same court as that fateful quarter-final game, running away with the 67-48 win.
Lauren Jackson top-scored for the Aussies, dropping 14 points and reeling in 7 rebounds for the game, while Suzy Batkovic was also integral to the win, finishing with 12 points and 7 boards.
The Opals got off to an impressive start, brimming with energy and bringing a physical brand of basketball from the opening tip. Defense was a key for the team with great pressure on the perimeter. The Czechs managed to stay in touch, and after a couple of costly turnovers from the Aussies snuck in front going into quarter time, 15-14.
The second term went basket for basket, as the highly anticipated match-up was living up to expectation. With the pressure mounting, the Opals sent the ball inside to Jackson and Batkovic, who were having a dramatic impact in the paint, while also getting ample support right across the bench, including the likes of Jenni Screen and Sam Richards. The Aussies took a 3-point lead into the half-time break.
The Opals increased the intensity another notch in the third, frustrating the home side to some tough shots, their field goal percentage falling to 30 per cent for the term.
At the other end of the floor, the Aussies showed great poise, and executed well to extend their lead to 11 points going into the final term, 46-35.
With the home side looking to get back into the contest, the Jayco Opals closed the door on any chance of a come back, taking the lead out to 20 points at stages in the fourth.
The game seemingly beyond doubt, both coaches continued to rotate through all 12 players, with the Aussie bench securing the lead and bringing home a big confidence-boosting win for the Opals.
“The team responded well as a group, it was the defensive intensity that put us in a dominating position during this match,” said head coach Carrie Graf.
“The intensity at the start was from the memory of 2010,” said Opals star Jenna O’Hea. “This set the tone for the rest of the game. It was great to beat them by that margin on that court,” she said.
The win came after a 84-76 defeat by Hungary a day earlier. The team now heads to Italy for a two-match series with Russia.
AAP and Basketball Australia