The Matildas will play off for a bronze medal against the United State of America after being defeated 1-0 by Sweden in the semi-final at the Tokyo Olympics.
Fresh off the heels of an NBA playoffs campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers, Matisse Thybulle will be looking to add more experience to his game with the Boomers as they hope to claim their first Olympic medal in Tokyo which kicks off this weekend.
The Games will cap off a solid year of growth for the 24-year old. In only his second year in the NBA he was named to the All-Defensive Second Team, led the league in steals (3.8) per 100 possessions and averaged 20 minutes per game.
In 2020 when the NBA flicked the switch on the restart, we got know Thybulle on personal level when he started vlogging in the bubble, and posted a series of high-quality behind the scenes videos.
Now, he’s revived his hobby and has already produced two episodes titled “The Road to Tokyo” where basketball fans get to learn how international basketball players spend their days.
“I know about three people on this team. I don’t know anybody’s names,” Thybulle said. “I definitely got to get up to speed. I mean it’s a new place, new guys, new rules — new basketball. It’s a lot of new stuff. But it helps that the guys are really welcoming and let me make mistakes.”
Thybulle’s crafty doc-style footage captures everything from: unpackaging gift bags (“Milo!”), airports, inside looks at hotel rooms, playing bean bag toss, figuring out where to eat in a new city and sometimes ordering in: “food is arriving at 3 p.m. so I guess I can drink water and read until then.”
But also for Thybulle, the experience allows him to be able to connect with his with his new teammates like Joe Ingles who loves the banter. When Thybulle was walking to practice across a car park in his socks, Ingles wasn’t a fan of his fashion statement: “Disgusting. We’re going to kick him off the team,” he said, with a laugh.
In the trial games in Las Vegas, Thybulle impressed against Argentina with 15-points (six-from-nine), four steals, three blocks. And against the USA, he was part of a defensive contingent that produced game-saving acts that led to the eight-point win.
Patty Mills, who was rested against Nigeria, was instrumental in that USA win, top scoring with 22 points while Joe Ingles had 17.
The Spurs guard who is now 32, is leading from the front with composed and fearless play that the younger Boomers are feeding off. In the post match presser following the win over the USA, Mills spoke about the Boomers’ defensive mindset heading into Tokyo.
“We understand at the start of this campaign that for us to be able to be really competitive and achieve our goals, we need to hang our hat on the defensive end – especially against a team like the US. The get out and make easy lay-ups and dunks, to do that was pretty impressive for our second game,” he said.
“We’re not satisfied, we’ve still got a long way to go and can still get a lot better but as I said, defence is where we’re going to hang our hat for the whole campaign.”
If the Boomers are to go deep into the Olympic tournament to claim their first medal, they’ll need to execute their team-first brand, the same kind that beat the U.S.A. Mills looks like he’s in ominous form and his support cast of Ingles, Aron Baynes and players like Thybulle, Chris Goulding and Matthew Dellavedova should be able to achieve what no other Boomers team has achieved.
They have the talent. They just need the composure.
Boomers assistant coach Adam Caporn insists the team is not looking for pre-emptory excuses. He told media:
“The goal is gold – to make history and secure our first medal,” he said.
Australia will play Nigeria, Italy and Germany in their Olympic Group B stage matches and have high expectations they will medal in Tokyo.
Other things to know
-Argentina’s Luis Scola will be playing in his fifth Olympics. The 41-year old plans to retire after Tokyo.
-Dallas Maverick superstar Luka Doncic will be hoping he can lead underdogs Slovenia to a medal.
-Utah Jazz’ Rudy Gobert will play for France and the Gasol brothers – Marc and Pau – have plans to take Spain to the podium with bookies pegging them as a medal lock.
-Team Japan, who are ranked outside FIBA’s Top 20 rankings will have Washington Wizards’ Rui Hachimura and Toronto Raptors Yuta Watanabe.
Australia’s Group B stage matches to watch. All times are in AEST.
Sunday July 25
Australia versus Nigeria at 6:20 p.m.
Nigeria are ranked 22nd according to FIBA and will boast six NBA players including three from the Miami Heat – Gabe Vincent, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala.
Wednesday, July 28
Italy versus Australia at 6:20 p.m.
Danilo Gallinari of the Atlanta Hawks, Nicolo Mannion and former Dallas Mavericks forward Nicolo Melli are a trio of NBA players that will represent Italy. Italy are ranked 10th in the world.
Saturday, July 31
Australia versus Germany at 6:20 p.m.
Orlando Magic power forward Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga from the Washington Wizards are the two notable German players from the NBA. Germany are ranked 17th in the world.
Monday, Aug. 2 and Tuesday, Aug. 3
Thursday, Aug. 5
Friday, Aug. 6
Top 20 FIBA rankings
12. Czech Republic
18. Puerto Rico
19. Dominican Republic