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Sunday, 10 August 2008

Croatia 97 - 82 Australia : match autopsy

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The first games of Olympics mens pool basketball games are almost all over, with just USA v China to come.

Today saw a couple of surprise results, along with the predictable ones.

JR, On Fire
has a round-up of results for today, including a somewhat surprising Lithuanian defeat of star-studded Argentina (on a Linas Kleiza three on the buzzer following Carlos Delfino coughing up the ball), Russia's easy disposal of Iran, Germany not falling prey to potential-laden Angola (behind new recruit Chris Kaman), powerhouse Spain proving their mettle against former champs Greece and Australia sadly falling to a white-hot shooting Croatia.

Australia and the Croats both went into this match knowing that it would be a key pool game, as both are vying for a tight berth into the medal rounds. Croatia came out all guns blazing and blew the Boomers out of the water, 97-82.

Australia started the game in traditional fashion of late, with a CJ Bruton three-pointer, but from there it was all downhill.

The Croatian victory can be put down to one word: treys.

The boys in red, white and blue seemingly could not miss from deep and unfortunately for the Aussies, Brian Goorjian's trademark pressing defence played right into this strength. Australia was pressing the ball, with some success, all the way up the court. Of course though, when you press and don't succeed in stopping the ball, it leads to wide open shots.

Croatia did a great job of spreading the floor and beat the press in most cases with crisp passing that led to a series of threes raining from the sky. The Croatians just could not miss in this game. It is near impossible to stop a barrage like that.

The Croatians shot an unbelievable 12 of 16 (75%) from long range and the Aussies could not respond, with 6 of 19.

Once a team starts shooting like that, the same confidence transfers to all aspects of the game and the Croatians made a number of unbelievable and-ones under the basket and had the Aussies running in all directions, trying to cover all of their shooters.

The stars for the Croats from deep were Marko Tomas (4/4 for 12 points), former NBAer Zoran Planinic (2/2) and Davor Kus (2/3), whilst Marco Banic (16 points) and Nicola Prkkacin (16 points) did a great job inside.

It was not all doom and gloom for the Aussies, with a very strong captain's performance from Matty Nielsen (13 points, 5 rebounds) and a spirited, inspiring offensive display from David Barlow who proved himself beyond his years with 12 points including a stretch where he seemed to be the Boomers' only offensive threat.

Australia will just hope not to encounter another team with that sort of luck/skill/fortune from the land of deep if they are to progress into the next round. Their full-court defence certainly posed the Croats some problems at times and made the final scoreline more respectable than it could have been.

Now onto USA v China, which is in front of me on the TV screen now...starting with a Yao Ming three!

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