Chris Dutton August 01, 2012
Australia's Patrick Mills goes up for a basket against Spain's Marc Gasol. Photo: Reuters
The Australian Boomers are fighting to get through to the next stage of the Olympic Games after they suffered a second consecutive defeat last night.
While they were never expected to beat Spain, the 82-70 loss leaves them without a win in London.
They have three games remaining in the preliminary round to keep their hopes of a medal alive.
But while they rallied late to push the Spaniards to the buzzer, they didn't have the depth to match the world No. 2 and gold medal contender.
In truth, the Boomers' ambitious hopes of finishing with a medal are fading.
Australia should beat China and Great Britain in two of their next three games, but if they fail they will be dangling by a thread.
The most likely scenario is they will beat both of those teams with a clash against Russia looming as the make-or-break match to see whether the Boomers will have to line up against the United States in the next round.
If they want to move forward in the competition, they have to improve their shooting.
But one of the biggest flaws against Spain was the rebounding.
With Andrew Bogut back in Australia injured, the Boomers don't have a massive presence inside, and their big men couldn't match it with Gasol brothers Pau and Marc. In the end, Spain finished with almost 20 more rebounds and their second-chance points proved the difference.
The Boomers raced out of the blocks in the first quarter and stormed to an unexpected lead against a powerful Spain side.
Patrick Mills picked up two early fouls which allowed Matt Dellavedova to take over the Boomers' reins and he didn't disappoint.
He dished off impressive alley-oops and scored points of his own as the Boomers held on to a five-point lead at the first break. Coach Brett Brown was so impressed with Dellavedova that he kept the 21-year-old with NBA guard Mills on the bench to start the second quarter.
But with Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol, his brother Marc and Rudy Fernandez, Spain was always going to launch a comeback.
Spain got out to a five-point lead, but the Boomers' steely determination ensured the margin lasted only briefly. Joe Ingles lifted his game to an impressive level and he led the Australian scoring with nine points at half-time.
Even more impressive was the fact the Boomers turned the ball over just twice in the first half.
It all went horribly wrong at the start of the second half.
The Boomers must have left their game plan, skill, execution and enthusiasm in the changerooms because they returned to the court bereft of any confidence.
Spain first went on a 12-2 run to establish a comfortable lead.
Then it really started to blow out as the margin grew to 21 points and the world No. 2 sent Gasol to the bench to rest him for the rest of the tournament.
It wasn't a game the Boomers were expected to win.
Spain, after all, is ranked No. 2 in the world and is considered one of the best contenders to the United States' gold medal hopes.
The Boomers, in contrast, have just one NBA player, and they are missing Bogut. This has to be taken into account as they are now in a fight to advance to the next stage.
Perhaps the biggest concern is the Boomers' long-range shooting.
They battled from three-point land in their opener against Brazil and suffered a similar fate against Spain, making just four of 24 attempts.
Their next game is tomorrow.