The Australian Boomers have made their debut on the FIBA Asia Cup stage a memorable one, blowing out Japan 84-68 with a clinical display in Beirut on Tuesday.
While the Japanese are fancied to make the tournament’s top eight, Australia’s defence left them with few answers, allowing a miserly 35 per cent shooting from the field and keeping their opponents to just four offensive rebounds from 36 missed field goals.
The offensive class was brought by the starting backcourt of Jason Cadee (13 points, 5 assists) and Cam Gliddon (13 points, 3 assists), who controlled the tempo and picked apart Japan’s zone defence as the Aussies connected on 51 per cent from the field.
Brisbane’s Daniel Kickert (11 points, 5 assists) had an uncharacteristically poor three-point shooting night, but his passing and post-game were critical parts of the Boomers’ zone offence.
Big men Matt Hodgson and Angus Brandt were also major contributors, combining for 21 rebounds as the Boomers won the boards a staggering 47-20.
Andrej Lemanis’ contingent of young NBL talent was so impressive that long-time Boomer David Andersen didn’t need to take the court, while fellow veteran Brad Newley saw just 15 minutes of action.
Things weren’t quite so rosy early on, with a new and internationally inexperienced team making a slow start, while Japan looked very comfortable on a string of pull-up jumpers.
Taipans captain Gliddon scored Australia’s first ever points at the FIBA Asia Cup from an endline out-of-bounds, Cadee landed a trademark laconic triple and Gliddon fed Hodgson with a nifty no-look pass to get the Boomers into the flow.
Both teams traded baskets for the rest of the opening term, Australia’s ball movement creating open trifectas for Cadee and Gliddon, while Daiki Tanaka and Yuki Togashi (12 points, 5/10 field goals) were doing much of their damage from the ball-screen.
Trailing by a point at quarter-time, 20-19, the Boomers turned the defensive screws after the break, Mitch Creek bringing the energy as Japan were held to just one point and without a field goal for the opening 4:27.
At the offensive end, slick ball movement continued to create good looks, while Kickert’s interior craftiness was causing the Japanese defence issues, even with his usual perimeter game astray.
A 10-2 run in less than three minutes – highlighted by a perfect Cadee-to-Mitch McCarron alley-oop and capped by an athletic Creek drive – then broke the game open and secured a 42-31 half-time lead.
Cadee and Gliddon were the offensive stars of the opening 20 minutes with 18 points and five assists between them, the Boomers only real blemish 11 first-half turnovers to somewhat negate their 12 dimes.
Hodgson’s size continued to cause issues for his undersized opponents after intermission, but a dry spell for the Boomers and some impressive interior play from Ira Brown (11 points) meant the Aussies struggled to extend their advantage.
With Japan within eight points with four minutes left in the third term an momentum in the balance, a massive three-point dagger from Cadee turned the tide.
The Sydney Kings point guard then followed up with a glorious open-court bounce pass to Creek for a deuce, and when he found Nick Kay for a transition trifecta the flood gates opened.
A gorgeous left-handed runner from Kickert, followed quickly by his first triple after five attempts, put the margin out to 21 with a quarter to play, then a McCarron long bomb early in the final stanza snuffed out any Japanese hopes of a comeback.
Creek (10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) took the chance to put on a personal scoring party, the Adelaide 36ers star the beneficiary of some quality passing from Kickert and Mitch Norton.
Japan added some respectability to the scoreboard after the margin reached 24 late in the game, but the story of the night was Australia’s stingy defence and the classy combination of Gliddon and Cadee.
The Boomers next face Hong Kong at 11pm AEST on Thursday night – live on Fox Sports.
Australia 84 (Cadee 13, Gliddon 13, Hodgson 11, Kickert 11)
Japan 68 (Harimoto 13, Togashi 12, Brown 11)
Image via www.fiba.com.
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