London: Boomers vs Russia Preview
The Boomers face Russia on Monday evening in their final pool game - read Marc Howard's exclusive match preview.
Australian Boomers (2-2) vs Russia (4-0)
Tip-off: Mon 6 Aug 6:00PM (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
TV coverage: Live on Foxtel’s London 1 & London 1 HD from 5:50PM AEST
The Boomers will take on Russia on Monday evening Australian time looking to head into the Quarter Finals on a roll, but they face a tough test.
The Boomers mounted an unbelievable comeback in their most recent Group B pool match to thrash host nation Great Britain by 31 points after trailing by as many as 15 points in the third quarter. The Australian men were simply unstoppable in the second half of that game, and they will need every bit of the momentum created by that win to beat Russia.
The Russians are the only undefeated team in Group B with a 4-0 record. One of those wins was an upset victory over world number two and current European champions Spain and their plethora of NBA talent.
As well as Russia has been playing in London, few saw them as a real threat to beat Spain before their 77-74 victory. Yet the Russians did just that and guaranteed themselves of finishing top of Group B.
The Boomers guaranteed themselves fourth spot in Pool B but cannot finish higher due to having lost to both Brazil and Spain who sit above them on 3-1 records.
That means the Boomers are now guaranteed to face the number one seed in Group A in the crossover. That looks likely to be the US ‘Dream Team’ who are themselves a perfect 4-0 and recently set numerous Olympic records with their 156-73 walloping of Nigeria.
Whilst the US showed they weren’t completely untouchable after Lithuania came within five points of them in their last game, the reality is that no one wants to face the Americans and their team of superstars until it comes to the gold medal game.
Of course the Russians have some superstars of their own who the Boomers will need to overcome if they hope to win.
The scoring leader on the Russian squad is Andrei ‘AK47’ Kirilenko, who plays in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The 209cm power forward is leading the Russians in scoring at 19.5 points per game, which is equal fifth best in the tournament. His conversion rate is exceptional, as he is shooting the ball at an amazing 60.9% from the field. He is more than just a scorer however as he is also a superb defender and good rebounder.
Second on scoring for the Russians is 195cm guard Vitaliy Fridzon, who plays for Khimki Moscow Region. Fridzon is averaging 12.2 points per game and was the key to the Russian upset of Spain when he had a 24-point haul.
Also averaging 12.2 points for the Russians is Timofey Mozgov, who plays for the Denver Nuggets in the NBA. The 215cm centre gives the Russians an imposing presence in the paint and will test the defence of the Australian big men.
The secret to the Russians’ success so far in London has been their shooting percentage. From the field, they are averaging 50.2% (second behind only the US) as a result of skilled play around the basket and a determination to take high percentage shots.
Whilst this Russian team isn’t full of three-point gunners, Fridzon has connected on 50% of his triple attempts in London while teammate Victor Khryapa is ranked 11th in the tournament in three-point percentage at 46.7%.
Khryapa, a 203cm forward from CSKA Moscow, is also the Russians’ leading rebounder at 6.5 boards per game. Kirilenko is strong on the glass for the Europeans as well, averaging 6.2 per game. Despite this Russia are one of the weaker rebounding teams at these Games.
The Russians are averaging just 37 boards per game in London. That ranks them just ninth in the tournament and compares poorly to the Boomers own 42.0.
In that stat may just lay the secret to Australia’s chances of an upset. If Australia can crash the boards at both ends, creating more scoring opportunities for themselves while limiting those of the Russians, they will give themselves the best possible chance of getting the win.
Their record is imposing and they have some big names, but this is not a Russian team that should be feared. After all, they failed to qualify through Eurobasket and only booked their ticket to London through the repechage Olympic Qualification Tournament. They are undefeated currently but that doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten, and the Aussies have every reason in the world to go for it.
Boomers Keys to Victory
- Put the Russians under pressure on the glass at both ends of the floor;
- Do a better job at getting to the free-throw line (Australia did not attempt a single free throw in the first half of the win over Great Britain and are ranked 11th of 12 teams in freebie attempts per game in London at just 14.2, ahead of only Tunisia);
- Concentrate on maintaining defensive rotations to force the Russians to take low percentage shots late in the shot clock under pressure;
- Attack the Russian big men in the paint by making the Boomers bigs a target early and penetrating the Russians’ perimeter defence;
- No easy baskets and send them to the foul line if necessary (Russia are shooting just 65.8% on free throws, the third lowest in the tournament, with only Kirilenko in the top 20 free-throw shooters at 71.4%).