Australia v Serbia
8:00am Saturday August 20 (AEST)
Australia: Reaching the Semi-Finals for the fourth time ever, Australia are now chasing their first ever medal. Their form has been very impressive, winning with an average margin of 22.4 points including a 26-point thrashing of Lithuania while they took care of Serbia in the group stage.
That meeting was an intense and physical encounter but the Aussies put together a stirring 33-17 fourth quarter to come back from a three-quarter time deficit.
Serbia: Sneaking past rival Croatia in the Quarter-Final by three points, Serbia had a very different contest than Australia as they were made to work to overcome a six-point half-time deficit.
They out-rebounded the Aussies by three on the offensive glass last time they met which is Australia’s biggest weakness but they will have to improve their three-point shooting from that group stage game after they hit just 5-22 (23%).
Aron Baynes and Andrew Bogut were very efficient when Australia last played Serbia, combining for 19 points on 7-14 shooting (50%) while holding their own on the boards with 19 rebounds. Baynes was one of the catalysts for the fourth-quarter run but where they can really take advantage in the front court is with Bogut’s passing after he racked up six assists in that game as well.
Miroslav Raduljica did prove a handful, tallying a team-high 25 points with 11-13 free-throw shooting but foul trouble hindered his performance down the stretch. He recently made the highlight reel against Croatia with a thunderous dunk but will need help from Nikola Jokic who was hardly spotted in the group stage clash, recording just seven points and three boards.
The second leading scorer at the Olympics, Patty Mills let loose for a game-high 26 points last time Australia played Serbia, hurting them inside and outside including 8-8 free-throw shooting. Matthew Dellavedova was also outstanding with 23 points, 13 assists and two steals without a turnover while his aggressive mindset that he showed in the Quarter-Final (hitting the first two three’s of the game) will be required again tomorrow morning.
Joe Ingles has also been a defensive beast on the perimeter while his three-pointer down the stretch in the final term against Serbia was a clutch basket that proved his ability to step up in crunch situations.
In the Serbian back court, Milos Teodosic is a wizard with the basketball, evidenced by his assist average of 5.8 which places him fourth in the tournament (behind first-placed Dellavedova). He has not been a prolific scorer but did tally 17 against Australia.
Bogdan Bogdanovic is a dead-eye from the three-point line, shooting 50% with 2.5 makes per game, placing him equal-fourth for the Olympics. He was unable to find any space against the active Australian defence though, missing all three of his attempts.
When foul trouble became a concern for Australia against Serbia, Kevin Lisch took over from Dellavedova while David Andersen collected nine points and six rebounds to alleviate the pressure from Bogut and Baynes.
Damian Martin also impressed in the Quarter-Final, recording four steals in 16 minutes and with those Australian role players maintaining the pace at both ends of the floor, Serbia cannot expect to relax at any point in the game.
They will be looking for similar production from Nemanja Nedovic who tallied nine points in the last meeting but without a much improved effort from the Serbian bench, this is where Australia could take full advantage.
While Serbia took care of Australia in the 2010 World Cup, the victory from last week will give the Aussies confidence and should bring them into the Semi-Final clash as favourites.
They looked switched on right from the opening tip against Lithuania with Dellavedova stunning the opposition with four three-pointers in the first quarter so Serbia will have to be ready to face that onslaught.
The Aussies will have a tough time containing Raduljica in the paint while Mills and Dellavedova will look to their bench to help contain the electrifying Teodosic but in what is shaping as the biggest game in Australian’s men’s basketball history, their combined team effort looks to much for Serbia to handle.