Men's basketball beaten by Serbia

Published 20 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: Nikola Kalinic #10 of Serbia makes a leaping pass around Aron Baynes #12 of Australia during the Men's Semifinal match on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

BASKETBALL: Australia’s men’s team will have to win a play-off for bronze against Spain on Sunday if it is gain its first medal at the Olympic Games after being outclassed by a physical Serbian team in tonight’s semi-final.

Serbia also knocked out our women’s team in the quarter-final on Tuesday in a one-point thriller but there was no pulsating finish in the men’s match, with the Serbians winning by 87-61 .

They gave Australia’s attacking focal points Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova little scope from the opening whistle and held a handy lead from early in the match, after scoring the first eight points.

Unlike the quarter final two days earlier, the Australians had a poor start with two turnovers in the first two possessions and a missed two-pointer from Dellavedova enabling Serbia to land the first four points. Aron Baynes then missed from under the basket and there was a third lost possession and the Aussies were 8-0 behind after the first two and a half minutes.

Coach Andrej Lemanis called time out to try to focus his team on how to break down the aggressive Serbian defence, but little worked.

At the quarter-time break Serbia led 16-5 and had strangled Australia out of the first phase. The Aussies were shooting at just 13 per cent success from the field (2/15) while Serbia were at 53 per cent (8/15 with 14 shots inside the key) and had picked up 15 rebounds.

A Broekhoff three-pointer early second quarter, then two blocked shots from Andrew Bogut and a Ryan Broekhoff assist for an Ingles’ goal, saw Australia gather their first bit of momentum to come back to 16-10.

It was short-lived however. At the end of the second break Serbia were well in control at 35-14 and the Australians were frustrated.

Unable to get inside their defence, Australia took to long-range effort with little success. They landed just two from 14 shots from three-point range in the first two-quarters and a total of just 21 per cent from the field (6/29) and only 4/15 inside the key.

Mills, the Games’ second highest points-scorer before this match, had been shut out and had scored just five points and converted only two of seven inside shots as the Serbian defence muscled up with intent. By the end of the game he had been restricted to just 13 points.

Serbia led 66-38 at three-quarter time and went on with the match, pulling off a 41-point form turnaround by the Serbs after Australian had beaten them Serbia 95-80 in preliminary rounds.

Mills and Brock Motum top scored for the Aussies with 13, with Joe Ingles contributing 12. The team were so often forced to shoot from outside but were able to convert just four from 31 three-point shots at a percentage of 13 per cent.

It is now the fourth time the Australian men’s team has been beaten in an Olympic semi-final after going down in 1988, 1996 and 2000. However, the chance for this team to become the first men’s team to win a medal is still alive if they can regroup by Sunday.

Australia will play Spain in the bronze medal match at 11.30am Sunday (12.30am Monday AEST) with USA, who beat the Spaniards 76-82 in the other semi-final, taking on Serbia on the gold medal match at 3.45pm (4.45am Monday AEST).

“We have to regroup and figure out what went wrong with offence and do a better job,” said a philosophic assistant coach Luc Longley.

“I haven’t really looked at Spain yet. They’ve been in the other pool; we expected to win tonight.”

Joe Ingles, one of the better Australian players tonight, did not try to sugar-coat the poor performance.

“We missed some shots early that we’ve made for the whole tournament. We didn’t execute on both ends of the floor. They picked us apart offensively,” he said.

Yet, while still stunned after the match at the uncustomary performance after such consistent across-the-boards efforts in Rio, he was not about to lay down in disappointment.

“We’re Australia, we’re not going to back down,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot to learn in a short time. We’ll watch the film and learn quickly and have a look at ourselves.

“At the end of the day we’ve still got a chance to do something that no other team has done from Australia. We’re going to leave everything out there on Sunday and take that bronze. “

“We didn’t executive defensively from the start, they went on a 10-0 run.”

Dellavedova, who had trouble getting into the match, was just as succinct about what is ahead now.

“They [Spain] are another class four powerhouse. It’s going to take a good effort to beat them.”

 

Neil Cadigan

olympics.com.au

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