Boomers beat Argentina to set up Olympic basketball clash with USA

Sport

For so long, an Olympic medal has eluded the Australian men’s basketball team, the Boomers. At four Olympics, spread across four decades, the Australians have reached the semi-finals only to lose and then lose again in the bronze medal clash. Most recently, at the 2016 Rio Games, the Australians lost out on bronze to Spain by one point following a questionable foul call.

At Tokyo 2020, a medal for Australia remains two matches and at least one win away. But the Boomers are now guaranteed another chance at a medal after beating Argentina in the Olympic quarter-finals on Tuesday night to book a blockbuster semi-final clash with the United States. If the Boomers can beat the reigning champions – who they defeated in a pre-Games warm-up in Las Vegas – they will play for a gold medal on Saturday. Lose to the Americans and Australia will face either France or Slovenia in yet another battle for bronze.

Argentina started strongly at the Saitama Super Arena, closing the first quarter four points ahead of the Australians, who were missing key centre Aron Baynes after he suffered an injury during the group stage. But the Boomers came roaring back in the second – spurred by three-pointers from veterans Joe Ingles and Patty Mills in quick succession – to take a six-point lead into the half-time break.

Another dominant effort in the third saw Australia build a commanding lead, before a 19-point unanswered run put the game to bed at the start of the final quarter. A late rally was never going to be enough for the South Americans, and the Boomers closed out the quarter to win by almost 40 points, 97-59.

Former NBA first-round draft picks Matisse Thybulle and Dante Exum starred at both ends of the court for the Boomers, while Mills and Jock Landale led the scoring. In a remarkable indication of the team’s holistic contribution, every single Australian found themselves on the scoresheet.

“We know a lot about them,” said Exum about the Boomers’ forthcoming clash with the United States. “We’ve played them and obviously they’ve got the hype of being Team USA. But we have to just go in and play our game and we know what we have to do.

“It’s just them versus us,” the guard added. “There’s only five on the court at a time and we can play defence and only one of them can have the ball at a time.”

Foul trouble for the Argentina captain, Luis Scola, limited his impact in the second half, with Nico Laprovíttola contributing offensively for Argentina with 16 points. The 41-year-old Scola received an ovation from the opposition bench when he checked out of the game for the final time – a fitting tribute for the five-time Olympian as he concludes his international career.

Australia’s women’s team, the Opals, will also face the United States – in the quarter-final of their competition on Wednesday. The US women are on a 52-game unbeaten run in the Olympics, stretching back to 1992.