There’s been a lot of great basketball in this tournament.
USA v Turkey comes to mind, where the Turks blew the game twice as huge underdogs. New Zealand v Turkey last night was an amazing game of back and forth basketball, with some big buckets from some NZ NBL stars.
Australia v Lithuania also comes to mind, where Lithuania came at us hard at the death, as you’d expect from a European powerhouse.
Last night’s game though between Australia and France, two teams desperate to avoid the draw of death (a matchup of USA in the Qtrs and potentially Serbia in the semi-final), will go down as the game of the tournament.
It was simply basketball of the highest quality, where the defence from both teams was on point, yet the offence continued to find ways to get buckets from both ends.
Australia overcame a strong French 3rd Qtr to win by 2, with some huge plays down the stretch from just about everyone. Whether it was Patty Mills doing what Patty Mills does best (just a walking bucket at FIBA level), crafty slow mo Joe running our offence, or gritty plays from the likes of Delly and Mitch Creek down the stretch (both making some clutch Fts), everyone put in.
But it was our bearded warrior who really stood out against France, putting his body on the line at all costs, and knocking down so many shots.
Aron Baynes was phenomenal last night. Baynes is so under rated as to what he brings to this team. Last night he took multiple charges when the going was getting tough, continually knocking down open 3s (suddenly looking like Klay Thompson out there), and just bringing so much energy to the team.
What this huge win over France means now is that we hop over to the other side of the draw, after topping an extremely tough group, and face off against the surprise package of the tournament in the Czech Republic.
Czech Republic are led by Tomas Satoransky, who have surprised a lot of people in this tournament with their no fear approach, knocking off the likes of Brazil and Turkey, and doing enough to survive the Greeks last night (with 12 points up their sleeve) in a close loss going through on for and against.
Australia can’t take the Czechs lightly. Just because they don’t have an array of NBA All-Stars, doesn’t mean they don’t have any weapons. Along with Satoransky, the Aussies will have to limit the likes of Bohachik and Hruban if we want to progress to the Semi-Final.