Boomers’ hopes were shaken as Japan plotted basketball’s biggest boom

Hosts Japan rate the Boomers as one of the “best” teams in the world, but they're preparing to take a “slap in the face” as they attempt to set off one of the biggest kettle transgressions in FIBA ​​basketball history.

Pressure has mounted on the Boomers to beat Japan on Tuesday night with an automatic qualification for next year's Paris Olympics at stake.

That would be problematic as there are only five spots left for the Olympics – and most NBA players would be unavailable.

New Zealand's 95-87 overtime win over Jordan on Monday helped the New Zealanders to a 1-1 record at the World Cup.

The best player of this year's Australia-New Zealand Cup will automatically receive a qualifier for the Paris Games 2024.

That means the Boomers must now defeat Japan on Tuesday from 21.10 (AEST) – and hope New Zealand lose their final group game against Greece on Wednesday.

If Australia fails to beat Japan, New Zealand has a chance of automatically qualifying for the Olympics if they can beat Greece.

The Boomers could still reach Paris but would have to take part in a qualifying tournament.

Australia have a 5-1 record against Japan, admittedly in the Asian Cup, but the co-hosts secured a historic and emotionally charged victory over Finland.

The 10-point triumph was the first win over a European team at a World Cup, and the almost 8,000 spectators went into raptures.

That means the Boomers will invade a hotbed of national pride in a home World Cup against Japan on Tuesday.

Japan coach Tom Hovasse has great respect for Australia but will advise his charges not to take a step back from the Boomers.

“If we settle in, play our game and somehow get the pace that we want, I'm in with a good chance,” Hovasse said of Japan's chances against an Australian team of nine NBA players.

“We're here to win, we're not here to compete.

“We have to take the punch and counter it and hopefully we can show them what we're made of.

“They are one of the best teams in the world. So we can't let them push us around.

“They're bigger, they're stronger, we have to fight on the rebounds, we have to stay close on the rebounds. And we have to shoot, probably better.”

Hovasse refuses to take Australia lightly, knowing they will hit back hard after Sunday's heartbreaking defeat by Germany.

“Coach Goorjian makes them play very well and they are great,” he said.

“They lost a difficult game (on Sunday) so they will be hungry and will come with everything they have.”

Veteran Boomers forward Joe Ingles knows the Japanese will be shooting in front of a passionate home crowd.

“Japan are a good team – they push a lot and play a lot in the zone,” said Ingles.

“We're playing in Japan, so they have a home crowd there.

“We watch a small film and prepare for it.

“It's obviously frustrating and disappointing, but it's over now and we'll see where we can improve.”

Tightrope walk and cast change?

Australia lost to Germany by just three points, but World Cup participation is at stake to reach the quarter-finals.

To progress, the Boomers need to beat Japan from 9:10 p.m. (AEST) on Tuesday.

The second group stage faces Luka Doncic's Slovenia and Georgia, but Australia need to win both games to reach the quarter-finals.

It looks like the Boomers will face either the Group G winner (Spain) or the Group H winner (Canada) in the quarterfinals.

Australia are perfectly capable of reviving their cup campaign with victories over Japan, Slovenia and Georgia but need to improve in a number of important areas.

The slow starts that have plagued the Boomers since the World Cup warm-up in Melbourne are a clear problem.

The question arises: does coach Goorjian have to adjust his starting formation?

The legendary mentor has used Josh Giddey, Patty Mills, Matisse Thybulle, Nick Kay and Duop Reath in the opening two games against Finland and Germany.

There are calls for Goorjian to change his starting line-up but it seems unlikely he will face Japan on Tuesday.

The Australians have a clear size advantage that could allow contactless players like Kay and Reath to build some much-needed confidence.

Dallas guard Josh Green could be an option to replace Thybulle on offense, but the Boomers are also juggling Green's minutes after he picked up an ankle injury in a warm-up win over France.

The Mavericks newcomer excelled from the start against the French before being injured.


The Boomers are most efficient when former Sydney Kings star Xavier Cooks is on the field – and he could be a starting option as the tournament progresses.

Cooks was brilliant again in Sunday's loss to Germany when he came on as a substitute.

The Washington Wizard had nine points and five rebounds while being a beast on defense.

Goorjian praised Cooks' performance after the game and said he was vital to Australia's chances, particularly with starter Jock Landale retiring from the Cup with an ankle injury.

“That doesn't mean having Jock, so he (Xavier) is the reserve five now,” Goorjian said.

“If you look statistically, offensively and defensively and look at our pluses and minuses, we were the best with him on the field.

“Again we played him a lot (against Germany) and he kept us in the game and he was crucial for us. He was great.

“We're making progress with this group when it comes to setting up the small balls and making changes.

“The substitutions in this group, like Josh Green, are often because he hasn't played much.

“It's the same with Xavier. We often have to get him out of there because he's exhausted, but Xavier is crucial for us if we want to progress from this group.”

Originally published as FIBA World Cup: Breaking news ahead of crucial Group E showdown between Australia and Japan

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