With Team USA taking its meeting with Team France by the (too-close) margin of three points earlier on Sunday, Australia’s status in the medal round was assured prior to its tip with Venezuela. Despite the Boomers’ superior point differential advantage, which would have served as a tiebreaker had both the Aussies and Americans finished the pool round at 4-1, the Americans would grab the top seed in the medal round by way of the Team USA’s close victory over Australia on Wednesday.
As a result, Team Australia didn’t exactly go all out in its 81-56 win over Venezuela Sunday evening. Guard Patty Mills, who notched 30 points against Team USA earlier in the week, sat the entire contest. Fellow NBA veteran and teammate Matthew Dellavedova also rested on the pine for most of the win.
No matter, as the Aussies held Venezuela to just two points in the first nine and half minutes of the contest. Stout and insistent defense set the tone early, as the (arguable) second-best team in the men’s basketball arm of the Olympics thus far seemed well on its way to another romp.
Venezuela, however, had one last round in them.
Fighting for its Olympic lives, Team Venezuela took advantage of a few turned heads in transition, attacking the Aussie defense and actually outscoring them 19-16 in the second quarter. An early 16-2 advantage for Australia in the first quarter dwindled to merely a two possession game midway through the second, while Venezuela’s defense increased in its intensity as the situation called for.
The run couldn’t hold up, however, as Australia regained its focus while talking a better game defensively as Venezuela tried to keep up the all-out attack. Center and team leader Andrew Bogut didn’t sit out for as long as his fellow NBA-employed teammates, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and two assists, and Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles contributed 11 points and three assists for the Aussies.
Swingman Anthony Perez led Venezuela with 12 points on 5-7 shooting.
Australia had its issues, namely 13 turnovers, and bruising power forward Aron Baynes will forever have issues chasing down stretch forwards on the perimeter, but in spite of Spain’s gnarly run over a kinda-there Lithuania squad Saturday, the Aussies appear to be the clear runner-up of pool play. Perhaps not the favorite on paper, not with Team USA’s cadre of NBA All-Stars, but at the very least the team playing the best brand of basketball on either side of the court at the moment. They’ve earned the second seed in the upcoming medal tournament.
With the loss Venezuela was eliminated for a chance at a medal in men’s basketball.
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