The Boomers have booked a semi-final showdown with Team USA in men’s basketball and Australia is through to the Olympic men’s hockey final for the first time since 2004 following a 3-1 defeat of Germany in their semi in Tokyo.
- The Kookaburras triumphed in their most recent appearance in an Olympic final at the Athens Games
- The Stingers were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the women’s water polo
- Nick Kay had a double-double for the Boomers against Argentina
But the Australian women’s water polo team have missed the chance to play for medals after losing 9-8 to the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team in their quarter-final.
In Saitama a dominant Boomers side decimated Argentina in the second half of their Olympic men’s basketball quarter-final to run out 97 to 59 winners and book a semi-final showdown with Team USA.
While Patty Mills, Mattise Thybulle and Jock Landale were the high scorers it was a genuine team effort and display of high-quality shooting and excellent defence that saw Australia through, especially after a slow start to the match.
Argentina took an 18-10 lead when Nicolas Laprovittola connected on a three-pointer with 3:12 left in the opening term and the Boomers appeared to be struggling, but it would ultimately be Argentina’s largest lead of the night in Tokyo.
From there, Australia were stung into action as they went on to make a statement and let the US team — laden with big-name NBA stars — know the semi-final would not be easy.
Down 22-18 at the end of the first, the Australians really kicked into gear in the second term and Chris Goulding levelled the score at 24-all with a trademark three.
Mills made a lay-up to give Australia the lead and from there they would never be headed as they locked down on defence to take a 39-33 lead into halftime.
If the first half was good team play it was the second half where the Boomers shone brightest as they let loose with a three-point barrage that sunk Argentina — Australia shooting at 44 per cent from beyond the arc for the match.
The third quarter saw the Boomers extend their lead to as much as 12 before Argentina cut it to six when they rallied on the back of a pair of made threes from Gabriel Deck.
Australia hit back through Dante Exum, who made a triple himself before ending the term with a lay-up.
Exum, who has endured a horror run with injuries in his NBA career since being taken at pick 5 in the 2014 NBA Draft, wasn’t done though and he opened the final quarter with a thunderous dunk that inspired his team to go on a 19-point run that extended their lead to 31 points before Marcos Delia ended Argentina’s rut with a lay-up.
By then it was all over though and the Boomers got every player on the court for some game time with every single one of them scoring in the rout, with Exum perfect from the field for his 9 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Mills led the scoring with 18, while Nick Kay grabbed a double-double as he finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
While it was a joyous night for Australia, it was not so for Argentine veteran Luis Scola.
The 41-year-old likely ending his distinguished international basketball career with an ignominious loss that was anything but reminiscent of the success he has achieved, which included Olympic gold with the national team at Athens in 2004.
For Australia, though, the US once again loom large and although the Boomers beat them in an exhibition prior to the Games, the Americans showed some serious form in their 95-81 quarter-final demolition of world champions Spain.
Team USA rendered most of the Spaniards — bar Ricky Rubio, who tipped in 38 points — largely useless, as Kevin Durant scored 29 points and Jayson Tatum managed 13 in just 18 minutes on the floor.
Kookaburras ready to go for gold
In the hockey, Tim Brand, Blake Govers and Lachlan Sharp scored goals for the Kookaburras, who will face world champion Belgium in Thursday night’s final.
Belgium reached the tournament decider after thrashing India 5-2 in their semi-final.
The Kookaburras won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, the only occasion the Australian men’s squad has topped the podium.
Brand opened the scoring for the Kookaburras with a seventh-minute goal when he pushed in a low shot from teammate Flynn Ogilvie that crossed the striking circle.
Germany made the most of a penalty corner when Lukas Windfeder flicked the ball into the goal, but that was not enough to keep the dominant Kookaburras at bay.
Govers gave the Kookaburras the lead shortly before the half-time break and Sharp sealed the win late in the final quarter.
Australia has now reached five Olympic finals in men’s hockey, but its record does not make for pretty reading.
A 2-1 loss to Pakistan in the 1968 final in Mexico was followed by a shock 1-0 defeat to New Zealand in the decider at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Australia next made the final in 1992, however Germany triumphed in Barcelona via a 2-1 result.
The Kookaburras finally broke through for gold in Athens following a thrilling 2-1 extra-time win over The Netherlands.
Stingers out of medal contention
The Stingers missed out on the medal rounds after losing to the ROC team.
They were trailing by two goals in the dying stages of the match, before Bronte Halligan scored a goal with 16 seconds left on the clock.
But the Stingers ran out of time to find an equaliser, with the ROC team advancing to the semi-finals.
The Stingers had only lost one match during the earlier group stage in Tokyo.
They also exited the Rio Olympics in 2016 at the quarter-final stage.