Boomers must regroup for shot at bronze medal

It was always going to come down to this. Two heavyweights in a World Cup epic slugging it out for 50 minutes. Body shot after body shot. Finally, almost ruthlessly, Spain would pick apart the Boomers in the second of the overtime periods, to prevail 95-88.

It's not over. The disappointment of another gut-wrenching loss to Spain must be tempered. There is no time to dwell on what-ifs, and the cruel cyclical nature of things. After all, there is another game to be played; another opportunity to salvage the grand consolation prize of a bronze medal. If things are indeed cyclical, the Boomers must regroup and avoid another heart-breaking bronze medal playoff result, this time against France.

This defeat cannot be their "Serbia" moment, when one bad game derailed their hopes; when one bad game led to a bronze medal game, a game they ultimately lost. But also, a game in which they battled, but internally, they felt they did not play at their best. That's how impactful one game can be in tournament play - it can lead to a mini-spiral.

"It's tough to lose - there's no doubt that, it's tough to lose," said Andrej Lemanis, postgame.

"But Spain's also a good basketball team and played well. It comes down to a couple of plays here or there and that's the way it goes. We got to now ensure we find a way to let this one go in the next 24 hours and come out and be ready to play with that same intensity on Sunday."

To avoid a slump, they will need to amend a frailty that has plagued their entire campaign: turnovers. The Boomers gave the ball away 22 times against Spain. Admittedly, that was essentially with an extra quarter of play, but Spain only had 14 themselves - every extra possession counts in these high stakes games.

There is a fine line between joyful team basketball, and recklessness. Too often, the Boomers skewed towards the latter.

Matthew Dellavedova is warrior, but he had six turnovers by himself, and once again threw away the ball, instead of valuing a final possession - a final shot - of a quarter. With 5.4 seconds left in the first, he chucked a hook pass straight out of bounds after over-penetrating. Sergio Llull promptly landed a long-range bomb to give Spain the lead 22-21 at quarter-time. Every possession should matter, particularly in a brutal, physically exhausting contest between two great defensive units. Spain would score 25 points off Boomers' miscues.

This was not one for those who prefer offensive execution and shot-making wizardry; this was for those who appreciate the mantra that defence wins championships; that effort and attention to details is what matters. Spain shot 42 percent overall from the field; the Boomers were at 38 percent.

Yet the Boomers were almost there. There were moments when one thought that they were moments away from clinching their first ever medal. Sure, they threw the ball away, yet they also ripped down a staggering 20 offensive rebounds, with none more prominent than Nick Kay. There should be no more litigation surrounding his inclusion in this team - Kay finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive. He just makes things happen, constantly ambling his way into position.

"A lot of guys in the locker room that gave their heart and souls tonight," said Kay postgame. "We definitely left it all out on the court. Sometimes it doesn't all go your way, but the way the boys fought tonight was [a] credit to the mateship and brotherhood that this group's got."

Andrew Bogut stood tall; He, Joe Ingles and Kay combined for 30 rebounds.

The Boomers offset their poor outside shooting (10-of-40, at 25 percent) by pounding the ball inside for 44 points in the paint. They outpointed the Spanish bench, 35-24.

Patty Mills was heroic once again. There were times in which he had to force the issue, resulting in some questionable shot selection. But a part of that is also because the Boomers do not have anyone outside of Mills as a dynamic off-the-bounce threat. Spain knew this, happy to deploy a defender on Mills, whilst zoning off the rest of the Boomers. An over-taxed Mills was also ultimately part of the turnover machine, giving it away a whopping seven times.

Ingles had a frustrating game. He defended, nabbed rebounds and was a floor general yet again, but he also looked off good, clean looks from the perimeter - ones he should let fly. Instead, he overpassed. That has the accumulative effect of allowing the opposition to load up on Mills, knowing there are no other threats.

Still, the Boomers had opportunities to win.

"We had some opportunities," said Lemanis. "Perhaps I played people too long and they were a little tired, but again, at the end of the day I think we had every opportunity to win the game. Sometimes it doesn't happen for you."

Marc Gasol was a colossus. By the end, he had literally broken the Boomers' base defensive scheme, forcing them into switches in the pick-and-roll.

And by the second overtime, Spain had finally worn down an exhausted Boomers outfit, generating open looks all over the floor, ruthlessly picking apart their defence to pad the final score. Spain were 5-of-6 from the field in the final frame.

"That was a hell of a game of basketball," said Lemanis. "It was fun to be involved with. [I'm] really proud of our team and the way got after it. You certainly can't question the effort and intensity with which we played."

Every team has warts - there is no perfect team, nor is there a perfect game to be played. When we analyse and critique the Boomers performance it is with the intention of stratifying where they stand amidst the rest of the competition, particularly with their lofty goals as a group.

The Boomers have shown that they belong in the top echelon. The result could have been different had so many little moments played out differently. Yet an opportunity remains on Sunday - perhaps not a golden one, but an opportunity nonetheless.

"The experience I think that we had in Rio, and that feeling of what it felt like to finish fourth when we had a chance to win a bronze, and seeing how much that hurt everybody," said Lemanis, "I have good confidence that this group will be able to well and truly refocus and get our energy back."

"Definitely came here for gold," said Kay. "The way the boys played represented that. But it's not over - the FIBA World Cup's not over. We've still got another chance to win our first medal. This is going to be a great opportunity to see how the group responds to a little bit of adversity."