Brian Goorjian has always been the darling of the Australian basketball coaching ranks.
If Jock Landale has NBA dreams post Olympics, the big man’s game against Italy should serve him well as he provided a plethora of highlight reels that should pique the interest of scouts.
The turning point that sealed the Boomers 86-83 win – their second at the Olympics – happened in the final quarter when Landale was fouled and was given two shots. He hit the first. Missed the second. But a clever Baynes tip out to Landale, who had the presence of mind to perch himself on the top of the three-point arc after the missed foul shot, gave Landale time and space.
The six-foot-11 forward nailed the three giving Australia a four-point play and breathing space during a tense back-and-fourth period.
If the NBA are looking for bigs that shoot the three ball, Landale just made his presence felt in a very small sample size. He was the best of the Boomers with a +16 rating, 18 points and seven rebounds.
Italy proved an arduous challenge for the Boomers. The Italians kept the pace in the early going and were able to match and better the Boomers on defence and scoring, often opening up an array of six point leads with efficient shooting inside the key. In the first half they were shooting at 64 percent inside the arc.
At the start of the second quarter Italy went on a 5-0 run and led 30-25 only for the Boomers to hit back with a 5-0 run of their own. This pattern reflected much of the play in the first half: the Boomers defence just wasn’t there which forced them to play catch up basketball when their shots didn’t drop.
Timely and effective perimeter shooting kept the Boomers in touch with Italy for most of the match. Joe Ingles proved too much for the Italians, hitting four three-pointers at 44 per cent at critical junctures in the game.
Aron Baynes also let fly from long range and finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two-from-three outside the arc. The Boomers finished with 11-from-31 for threes, while Italy had 8-from-25.
Matisse Thybulle continued his special run of excellent defensive work. He finished with seven points, a three-pointer, three rebounds and four assists. But his ability to force a turnover through tight checking is starting to impact momentum and scoring opportunities.
With 15 seconds remaining at the end of the third, Thybulle forced a turnover that ended up in the hands of Patty Mills who offloaded it to Nick Kay for a layup that gave the Boomers a 65-62 lead with a quarter to play.
With Patty Mills kept in check with heavy defence, it was left to others like Nick Kay to step up with 15 points and seven rebounds. When the game was on the line though, Mills was able to find ways to influence the game with steals, and bringing his teammates into the game with creative-under-the-rim passing and dishing wide for the corner three.
Even with 4.3 seconds to go, with the Boomers leading by three and with possession of the ball, Mills protected the ball and dribbled away from the contest like an experienced campaigner to seal the win. He ended the game with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists.
For Italy, they had too few that helped with scoring production. Simone Fontecchio top scored with 22 points and Golden State Warriors guard Nico Mannion had a solid game with 21 points and seven assists. Atlanta Hawks forward Danillo Gallinari struggled with five points and Nicolo Melli didn’t trouble the scorers.
Team USA is back on the winners list with a 120-66 thumping of Iran during their second match. And Germany beat Nigeria 99-92 giving them a 1-1 record.
The win gives the Boomers a 2-0 start in this Olympic tournament. They are favourites now to top Group B, as long as they beat Germany in their last match on Saturday.