By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been a long time coming for Australia. And flagbearer Patty Mills made sure that no one will take this away from him and the rest of his beloved Boomers.
After several upsets and fourth-place finishes in Olympic Games tournaments, the Aussies are on the podium for the first time in history. Mills scored an international career-high 42 points as Australia defeated Slovenia 107 – 93 in the third-place game to win a bronze medal that they celebrated as if it’s the gold.
Joe Ingles posted 16 points plus nine rebounds, Jock Landale contributed 14 points, Dante Exum dropped 12 points and Matisse Thybulle provided 11 points plus five boards for an Australian team that never trailed after the mid of the second period and went up 81 – 67 early in the fourth quarter.
Slovenia responded with a 13-2 run to make it a competitive affair again but that proved to be their swansong. Mills and Exum combined for seven unanswered points and Australia never felt threatened again for the rest of the match.
A visibly affected by fatigue Luka Doncic finished his maiden Olympics journey with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to cap an outstanding – and historic thanks to his triple-double vs. Spain – run in Tokyo. Klemen Prepelic added 17 points plus eight rebounds, Mike Tobey had 13 points and five boards while Jaka Blazic scored 12 for Slovenia that fell behind for good after a 17 – 13 start.
It was an eruption by Mills who scored 11 straight points in the second quarter and finished the first half with 26, that pushed the Boomers towards closing the first half up 45 – 53. They made fewer turnovers (10 against Slovenia’s 17) and were more effective to thwart their opponents’ comeback efforts and secure a safe margin and the win down the stretch.