Boomers vs Serbia – Olympic Semi Final Preview

The team of destiny is just one win away.

One win away from righting the wrongs of 1988, 1996 and 2000.

One win away from sending a nation into absolute ecstasy.

One win away from history.

After their spectacular performance on Thursday to obliterate world number three Lithuania, the Australian Boomers will play Serbia on Saturday 20 August at 8:00am AEST for a place in the Olympic Gold Medal game and a guaranteed medal – a win would give the men’s national team their first medal of any colour in the Olympic Games.

It’s been an extraordinary performance from Australia by any measure.

A brilliant 4-1 record in the preliminary rounds was one thing, but their complete and utter destruction of Lithuania in Thursday morning’s quarter-final was something else entirely.

Patrick Mills and Matthew Dellavedova set the tone with a devastating first half where they outscored the entire Lithuanian team by themselves in leading the Boomers to a scarcely believable 48-30 lead at intermission.

And where they left off, Damian Martin was there with his maniacal defensive pressure; Andrew Bogut was channelling his inner Bill Walton by hitting his teammates with one incredible pass after the other and Aron Baynes was dunking on folks and taking their lunch money.

Australia’s defence, played baseline to baseline, was near-flawless and bothered Lithuania to rampant frustration; the offence registered an incredible 30 assists on 33 made field goals to showcase just how efficient and deadly it has become and amazingly the Boomers turned the entire fourth quarter into extended garbage time as they romped to a remarkable 90-64 blowout.

The most pleasing aspect of the game might actually have been the aftermath. There was no chest-thumping, no overt celebration, just a quiet acknowledgement of the outstanding win and the understanding that the job they came to do here in Rio is nowhere near complete.

It’s that professional, workmanlike attitude that has served this team so well to date in their run through the tournament and what will be a big key in their upcoming game against Serbia, who they have already defeated in these Olympics, blowing them off the floor in the fourth quarter of their second game in Group A to run away with a 95-80 victory.

But as impressive as that win was for the green and gold, it was a little misleading, given how hard both teams battled for three quarters.

Outside the game with the United States, Serbia gave the Boomers the most trouble in Group play, and any complacency that might drift in will be dealt with severely by a team that is loaded with talent and plays hard every minute they are on the floor.

Coming off a grinding 86-83 quarter-final victory over Croatia, the Serbs are battle-tested and hungry for redemption after their loss to Australia in the preliminary rounds.

They have great size up front with Miroslav Raduljica – who had 25 points in the Group game against the Boomers and gave Australia’s bigs a very hard time – and 6’10” NBA power forward Nikola Jokic; Milos Teodosic is a superstar at the point and Bogdan Bogdanovic is the team’s X-factor, a 6’6” shooting guard who can get buckets in a variety of ways and can be very dangerous when he heats up.

 

As it has been throughout this Olympiad, Australia will need to bring their relentless defensive pressure to the table for all 40 minutes in this semi-final. The key will be denying Teodosic the ball wherever possible and take the Serbs out of their offensive rhythm; like most Eastern European ballclubs they will try and control the tempo and work the shot clock as they did against Croatia. Australia will try and speed them up with intense hustle and constant switching – the goal is to make them take bad shots, rebound and run, allow the Boomers’ transition game to put on serious scoreboard pressure.

Offensively, it will be very much a case of as you were once they get into a half court situation – Bogut at the high post feeding his baseline cutters and multiple ball screens set up top for Mills to bomb away from the perimeter; Baynes to be the power presence down low and Dellavedova looking for that classic pick and roll action in order to get his big guys easy dunks off his patented ‘Delly-Oops’.

Above all else, it will take everything the Boomers have to get through this semi-final. Head Coach Andrej Lemanis and his staff – who must be highly commended for the work they have done in building this program – had the luxury of resting players in the quarter final given Australia’s total dominance and that will be an enormous key in this game, but there will be no rest this time.

Serbia will be physical and will target Mills in particular; they will do everything they can to deny the Boomers and will no doubt go to extreme lengths to take Australia out of their game. The Boomers have been remarkably composed, efficient and confident in every contest thus far, but the Serbs will put that to the test on Saturday morning.

It won’t be easy by any means. But this is without question Australia’s greatest ever chance at an Olympic medal. They are the form team of the tournament; they have the talent, the chemistry and the experience to overcome their biggest challenge so far. And it says here they will do it.

History beckons for this team of destiny. Let’s go Boomers.

It’s time.

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