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Andrew Bogut played just 14 minutes in Australia’s meeting with Spain on Sunday.
The Dallas Mavericks center and Australian pivot, who plays such an integral role at the heart of the Boomers’ offensive and defensive systems, battled foul trouble throughout the bronze-medal game in the men’s basketball tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro; he fouled out with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter of a game that his Boomers would lose, 89-88, with Philadelphia 76ers guard Sergio Rodriguez hitting the winning free throws after a questionable foul call against the San Antonio Spurs’ Patty Mills on a late drive:
“I tried to get something off the penetration,” Rodriguez said after the game, according to News.com.au. “I saw Pau [Gasol] coming on the left and I tried to make a basket. I have to check on the screen, but that’s what the referee called. I know during the game there were many fouls the referees didn’t call on our side.”
That, as you might expect, is not how Bogut saw it.
After the brutal loss, which marked the fourth time in four trips to the Olympic semifinals that Australia has failed to come away with a medal, the eternally brash and forthcoming center pulled no punches in chastising game officials Ilija Belosevic, Steven Anderson and Roberto Vazquez for what he believed to be a whistle tilted against the Boomers and in favor of La Roja. From Reuters:
“It’s unbelievable,” said the Australian centre, Andrew Bogut. “You just dive into guys recklessly and get calls like that. It’s tough to play like that. We’re disappointed. We had a horrible semi-final, we battled tonight and times we were outnumbered on the court.
“You touch one of these guys and they go flying and the refs buy it. The last two fouls were tough on us.”
… and from Fox Sports Australia:
“The call on Patty towards the end comes three seconds after the ball hits the rim, so [the referees] are obviously thinking about something,” said Bogut, who is undecided on his playing future with the national team.
“It’s disappointing it had to go that way and the play before that, [Australian power forward] Aron Baynes gets an arm-bar foul in a one-point game with 20 seconds left. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Bogut also blasted the the call that saw him fouled out, accusing Spain’s Ricky Rubio of taking a “Superman dive”.
“The referees bought it, as usual,” Bogut said. “They’ll look back at the tape and see how obviously bad they were.
“When you blatantly dive into someone and fall over, that’s a tough way to play. I don’t blame Spain. If the referees are calling it, you keep doing it.”
While you might disagree with Bogut’s chosen method of unloading his frustration – which is to say, with both barrels and without remorse to the first set of microphones and recorders he came across – it’s hard to fault him for being so upset after his team came so close to snaring the ever-elusive first Olympic medal in men’s hoops … and, especially, after having to watch it because of an early DQ.
The stat sheet doesn’t necessarily betray a clear slant in the officiating, with both teams being whistled for 22 personal fouls and Spain taking seven more free throws than the Aussies – more, but not by an obscene amount, and not at all beyond reason considering the lion’s share of them were earned by interior beast Gasol and penetrating guards Rodriguez, Rubio and Rudy Fernandez. Still, context is everything in these situations, and while Australia head coach Andrej Lemanis didn’t spew quite as much venom as Bogut did, he expressed similar displeasure with the way the whistles blew in the final minute, on the plays that got Spain the final four free throws they needed to eke out the bronze. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
“It’s frustrating when their last four points came from the foul line from what you’d suggest would be relatively soft calls,” coach Andrej Lemanis said, choking back tears in the press conference.
“The two hands on foul, I’m sure if you look at that last bit on tape, there’s two hands on all over the place. It’s what you choose to call and what you choose to let go.
“Particularly in a big situation like that. It is hard to swallow when they get their last four points off the foul line off what was not obviously clear fouls.”
As frustrated as he must have been by the outcome, Mills – who finished with an Australia-high 30 points on 11-for-23 shooting, capping a brilliant run in Rio that saw him rank as the tournament’s second-highest scorer – declined to join in chalking up the loss to the officials, according to News.com.au:
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “Calls go your way sometimes and sometimes they don’t. Today they didn’t and you live with it. There were other opportunities throughout the game — we made some of those opportunities and others we didn’t.”
After a thrilling start to the Rio trip that had many touting Australia as the second-best team in the tournament and a real threat to Team USA’s chances of winning a third-straight gold medal, that wound up being the story of the 2016 Summer Games – an opportunity missed, a chance squandered, a return to the final-four level of international competition only to wind up once again on the outside looking in. While the U.S. and Spain played their best basketball at the end of the competition, the Australians started strong and sputtered late, which will make the wait for Tokyo in 2020 feel all the longer … especially for those who didn’t wind up having much of an impact on matters as it fell apart.
“It’s disappointing,” said Bogut, who also managed only four points and one rebound in 22 minutes in Australia’s semifinal loss to Serbia, according to Sam Amick of USA TODAY. “The last two games, from a team standpoint, to lose were tough. From an individual standpoint, my two worst games of the tournament were my last two games. That’s going to eat at me for the next couple of days. It’s something to deal with.”