July 25, (THEWILL) – Nigeria’s D’Tigers gave a strong showing against the Boomers of Australia in their opening game of the Tokyo Olympics but a set of misses and an awful final quarter did not help and they lost 84-67.
The match was not helped by off the court issues as the action was paused for nearly 5 minutes in the third quarter to sort out technical glitches that affected the time clock and shot clock stop that stopped functioning.
But the scoreline was a poor reflection of how closely the contest was, especially for the opening three quarters.
It was marred by mistakes and turnovers from both sides, only that the Australians took more points in the process to extend their lead.
D’Tigers were valiantly matching the Boomers, attempting to catch up with them all the way into the final quarter. Both sides began that quarter with Australia up by six points at 58-52, only to blow out the scoreline in the late stages for the 17 point victory, which was helped by more accurate free throws by the Boomers.
From the start, the Boomers particularly targeted the Nigerian offence and limited any transition offence towards their hoop. D’Tigers drained two three-pointers in quick succession to haul the lead back to 21-20 with under a minute in the first period, and a slip on the court gave Nigeria a third shot from beyond the arc to take a two-point lead.
That was where Patty Mills brought his impact to bear for the Aussies. He led from the front in the first quarter, racking up three steals and two three-pointers to give Australia a surging 21-14 lead late in the first stanza while the Boomers clogged up the central lane with an impressive smothering defence.
However, Nigeria rallied with coach Mike Brown dictating instructions from the sidelines to get D’Tigers forward. The NBA connection pushed the Nigerians team into a the lead but a Duop Reath jumper for the Boomers tied things up to end the first quarter at 23-23.
It was that momentum that Nigeria carried into the second quarter. They applied their physicality to their advantage as the game continued to swing both ways. With 4:19 left in the first half, the sides were locked at 34 points apiece before the Aussies went on a quick run to get out to a five-point lead.
It was reduced to three points and could have been to closed down to one point but Precious Achiuwa missed both his free throws while Mills also missed a chance to extend the gap further. The teams went into the break split by the three points of Australian lead.
Inside the third quarter, D’Tigers did not let up. Jordan Nwora racked up seven points quickly to bring it back to 55-49 after Boomers’ Dellavedova and Mills extended the Aussie lead early in the third quarter. The Boomers’ Dante Exum rolled his ankle after having his foot stood on, but managed to walk off the injury and continue playing.
When the clocks were fixed, action restarted with 3:12 remaining in the third quarter. Australia still led with 55-49. Both teams continued scoring as they maintained their rhythm after the unscheduled break, to wrap up the quarter 58-52, a five point Australian advantage.
The Brown-led D’Tigers struggled with the offence which seemed too error-prone to seize opportunities in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, the Boomers energy and pressure on the defensive end continued to pay dividends for the best Basketball team coming into the Summer Games.
In Australia’s advantage was their flagbearer and four-time Olympian Mills whose sensational stifling defence was a game-decider. The 31-year-old Mills impressed on both sides of the ball, and his pin-point three-point shooting and leadership was enough to give the Boomers the win.
Mills began and finished strongly, ending up with 25 points on five-of-eight shooting from beyond the arc. He added four rebounds, four steals and six assists.
It finished 84-67 after a strong Australian fourth quarter as they added 26 points to the 15 that D’Tigers could manage with errors in offense. Australia now lead Group B on points difference after Italy beat Germany by 10 points.