London: Boomers vs Great Britain Preview
Read Marc Howard's exclusive preview of the Boomers crucial pool game against Great Britian on Sunday night.
The Boomers got on the board at the London Olympic Games with a confidence-boosting win over China, and now they must face a tricky test against host nation Great Britain with a potential Quarter Finals berth at stake.
The Australian men beat China 81-61 on Thursday night and looked really comfortable for the first time in the tournament. They took care of the ball against the Chinese, turning it over just 10 times for the match. Just as importantly after struggling from the perimeter in their first two games they made a more respectable 8-of-24 from long range.
The Boomers defensive rotations were far sharper than they had been in their first two games, and they did a good job of cleaning the glass, albeit against a team that lacked the size of the Australians.
That win improved Australia to 1-2 for the Games, and leaves open the possibility of a third place finish in Group B if they can win their two remaining matches against Great Britain and Russia.
Given Great Britain are ranked just 43rd in the world compared to the Boomers own ninth ranking and the Brits qualified for the Games only through their host nation status, it would be tempting for the Boomers to be looking ahead to the Russian game. They would however do so at their peril.
Great Britain came within five points of beating Neneís Brazil, who defeated the Boomers by just one point less. Even more impressively, the Brits were just one point from upsetting world number two Spain. Given Australia got beaten by the Spaniards by a greater margin (eight points) Brett Brown and his men certainly wonít be taking Great Britain lightly.
The Brits roster is headed by current NBA star Luol Deng, an athletic 206cm forward with the Chicago Bulls. Deng is currently leading the Brits in scoring at 21.3 points. He is also averaging a stellar 8.0 rebounds and 5.7 blocks, so he is doing it all for Great Britain.
Second on scoring for the host nation is 208cm forward Joel Freeland, who plays for Spanish pro team Unicaja Malaga. Freeland is averaging 15.7 points and 6.7 boards a game thus far and provides a nice compliment to Deng to form Britainís one-two punch.
Whilst they are certainly not a star-studded roster, Great Britain actually has a little more depth than many might believe given their lack of history at Olympic and World Championship level.
Pops Mensah Bonsu is another quality big man. A 206cm centre who plays with respected Turkish team Besiktas. Bonsu is averaging 12.7 points and 8.3 boards so far in London. The trio of Bonsu, Deng and Freeland will give the Australian bigs more than a handful on Sunday night.
Great Britain have benefitted from attending the past two European championships and at Eurobasket 2011 they brought home the scalps of both Portugal and Poland. They also profited from the previously rare experience of taking on some of the best teams in Europe.
The Brits are definitely stronger inside than out and that is reflected in their statistics. Great Britain are averaging 16.7 miscues per game so far, which sees them third worst in the tournament behind only Tunisia and Nigeria. The Brits are also shooting just 29 percent from the perimeter, although this is still ahead of the Boomers (22.9%).
Great Britainís inexperience at this level has also resulted in them being more foul prone than most teams, averaging 24.3 per game (second highest in the tournament).
Whilst the Australian big men will face a massive task of containing the British interior players like Deng, the performance of the Boomers guards will be even more critical on Sunday.
Patty Mills and co will need to help the bigs inside whilst also putting significant pressure on the British ball handlers. The Aussie bench will also need to come up big to test some of the more inexperienced British subs.
Any thoughts of the Russian game on Monday night and finishing third in their group to avoid the US in the crossover needs to be put firmly on hold. Great Britain with the home crowd behind them will be a dangerous opponent and a win in this one will get the Boomers the two wins they need to guarantee the Boomers a Quarter Finals berth. Thatís all that matters right now.
Boomers Keys to Victory
- Put extended pressure on the British ball handlers to generate turnovers;
- Keep the British bigs off the offensive glass to limit their second shot opportunities;
- Help inside on Deng and Freeland and force the British guards to prove they can score;
- Take the ball inside on offence with either the pass or dribble to draw fouls on the Brits;