The game didn’t matter much but you wouldn’t have known otherwise based on the energy levels for Australia and Russia. Russia was essentially locked in the first slot in Pool B and Australia was relegated to fourth and a matchup with the United States. Yet there they were, meticulously breaking down the defense, playing tight defense themselves and generally bringing a ton of energy.
Australia prevailed 82-80 but neither team gave in to complacency. The Boomners held a lead the majority of the game but the Russians remained in close proximity. The passing was also excellent, from both sides, and both teams capitalized from open looks on the perimeter.
Australia finished the first quarter with a nine-point lead. Patty Mills struggled, which quickly became an omniprescent theme, finishing with two points on 1-of-3 shooting in seven minutes. They did receive nice first quarter performances from David Andersen, Aron Baynes, Matt Dellavedova and Joe Ingles who contributed 25 of 29 points. Aleksey Shved paced the other squad with seven points and Russia racked up seven assists to their name.
Semen Antonov and Vitaliy Fridson keyed a 10-3 run that cut the Australian’s lead to two points in the second period. With their best player still struggling to create sufficient space to utilize his quickness, Australia’s offense slowly gravitated towards a more effective option — Dellavedova orchestrating the offense — while placing Mills off the ball, away from the initial action. The move worked reasonably well and they exited the half with a 46-45 lead.
The third quarter belonged to Ingles. The Boomers effectively utilized his diverse game to their benefit; he was filling the point guard role well, creating for his teammates while scoring nine points in the third quarter. The Russians No. 1 defense was stymied by the difficulty in stopping a 6’8″ small forward with the proclivity to find holes in the defense. At the end of the quarter, the Boomers led, 69-64. They forced seven turnovers as well.
The Australians were on the brink of netting a nice victory, albeit empty, over the Russians before Mills missed a wide-open 3-pointer that would’ve stretched the lead to four points with 28 seconds left. Matt Nielsen compounded the costly miss with a personal foul on Fridson with 4.1 seconds left. Fridson calmly converted both free throws and the Russians led, 80-79.
But Brett Brown, much like Gregg Popovich, called a simple set with a variety of effective options that incorporated Ingles’ passing ability, the threat of Dellavedova, and Mills’ 3-point shooting. Mills received a nice pass from Ingles, a wide-open look and knocked down the shot at the buzzer to give Australia a 82-80 victory.
Mills finished with 13 points and, while he missed 11 of 16 shots, tied Shved’s 13 points, after he only mustered up four points in the second half. Ingles led all scorers with 20 points, though none came in the final frame.
The Australians will likely play Team USA and the Russians will draw either Lithuania or Nigeria in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday.