London: Boomers vs USA Quarter Final Preview
Read Marc Howard's exclusive preview of the Boomers sudden death Quarter Final clash with the USA.
Boomers (3-2, fourth in Group B) vs USA (5-0, 1st in Group A) - Quarter Final
Tip-off: Thurs 9 Aug 7:15AM (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
TV coverage: Live on Foxtel’s London 7 & London 7 HD from 7:05AM AEST
Boomers fans always worried about their team facing the might of the US ‘Dream Team’ in the crossovers, and a pair of losses to open the Olympic tournament has now dealt them just that hand. The Boomers now face the monumental task of containing the likes of NBA superstars Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Kevin Durant if they want to advance to the top four and the Semi Finals.
The US are undefeated in the tournament thus far, having racked up wins against France, Tunisia, Argentina, Nigeria and Lithuania. Their average winning margin has been a remarkable 38.2 points per game, and included an Olympic record score of 156 points against Nigeria.
To say that the Boomers will be underdogs going into the match is an understatement as the Americans will be unbackable favourites to beat the Aussies and advance.
Yet Brett Brown’s team has shown in London that they won’t shy away from any challenge and that they are not afraid to take it to basketball’s superpowers, as evidenced by their recent upset win over Andrei Kirilenko’s Russia.
Of course the US go a little deeper than the side from Russia, with all 12 American players legitimate established superstars.
Therein lies the problem for the Boomers in scouting the US. American coach Mike Krzyzewski has so many offensive weapons at his disposal it is almost impossible for Brown to know which ones he will need to stop.
The two primary scorers for the US thus far have been small forwards Kevin Durant and Carmello Anthony.
Whilst previous US teams have been criticised for their lack of perimeter scoring options, Anthony and Durant have been on fire from beyond the arc. Both are shooting at over 60% from the perimeter, and they have frequently caught opposition teams off guard with their willingness to launch the trifecta from NBA range and beyond.
Durant is averaging 17.6 points per game, and Anthony 17.4, giving the US a potent one-two punch.
With the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James having taken somewhat of an offensive backseat thus far in the tournament however the US still have plenty of options if Anthony and Durant go cold. It is also reasonable to assume that both of those players will look to step their contributions up now that the medal rounds are approaching. No single Australian player matches up well on the pair, so the Boomers will need to play good team defence if they hope to contain them.
The Americans for their part will undoubtedly be looking to contain Boomers guard Patty Mills, who leads Australia in scoring and is equal top scorer in the tournament at 20.6 points per game. Mills will undoubtedly be hounded by the long, athletic American defenders all game long, so it will imperative for him to remain aggressive without letting frustration into his game.
208cm Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love has been impressive for the Americans so far on offence, but is also the leading rebounder on the US team. The Australian bigs will have their work cut out for them keeping Love off the glass, as the US are averaging a tournament-high 44.4 rebounds per game.
The Australian bigs do have a slight size advantage over the Americans, but the superior athleticism of the US inside players all but negates that edge. It will therefore be up to the likes of David Andersen, Aleks Maric and Aron Baynes to put scoring pressure on the American bigs so they have to work hard all game. Hopefully that will cause the US some foul trouble and tire the American frontline out.
Whilst the Australians need to find a way to get easy baskets against the American defence, which has been exceptional for most of the tournament, they must avoid turning this match into a track meet. If the US are allowed to play the sort of free-flowing, up-and-down basketball that they love, it is likely to be a long night for the Boomers. The Americans are after all averaging a tournament high of 117.8 points per game, which is more than 35 points greater than the Boomers own average of 82 points.
The Boomers will need to pay strict attention to ball security. If they have the same number of turnovers as they have had in previous matches (12.2 per game) against the US, it will ignite the all but unstoppable American transition game.
Australia head into this game having built their confidence with three straight wins. They have nothing to lose given their underdog status and that has the potential to make them dangerous. They need to maintain their focus for the full 40 minutes against America if they hope to shock the world and advance for a shot at an historic first-ever Olympic medal.
Boomers Keys to Victory
- Force the US to play halfcourt basketball on offence and take away their fast break opportunities;
- Take care of the ball and look to attack the extended pressure defence the Americans will undoubtedly throw at the Boomers;
- Maintain defensive rotations so the US are forced to take contested jumpers late in the shot clock;
- Attack the American inside players to make them work and pick up fouls;
- Keep the game close to keep the pressure on the Americans, as it isn’t something they have had to deal with thus far other than in their match against Lithuania;
- Pressure the US on the glass at both ends of the floor.