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Boomers: Locked In, Safely Away

DEFENCE tenacious? Tick. Patty Mills alight? Tick. An unexpected contributor or two? Tick. Australia's Boomers tonight opened their Tokyo Olympic campaign by locking in and safely tucking away an 84-67 victory over Nigeria, ticking all the boxes.

Ahead 58-52 with a period to play, the Boomers' rampaging 26-15 final quarter placed them at the head of Group B, Italy beating Germany 92-82 in the pool's earlier match.

Mills led all scorers with 25 points and six assists, his tally including 5-of-8 threes.

As usual, Nick Kay was a solid contributor off the bench with 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a block, offering big-man relief where Jock Landale was hampered by foul trouble and Aron Baynes by soft hands.

Nigeria opened with the game's first two baskets before Joe Ingles peeled a casual triple off his money-wad. Yet at times Ingles resembled the Rio Olympics' "second-guessing" version of himself when the cool "I enjoy kicking your butt and smirking at you" version is the one we need for this campaign to be successful.

Hopefully it was just a case of first-game nerves because that secondary scoring option to Mills remains a vacancy yet to be filled.

Dante Exum worked hard for his 11 points but the ball stuck in his hands far too often when he took it to the hoop and a few of his five turnovers were avoidable.

He made up for it defensively in a promising first game and while Matisse Thybulle's numbers may not read particularly spectacularly - seven points, four rebounds, two assists, five steals - he was an X-factor all over the floor.

His energy level and commitment to every play is inspirational stuff and the Boomers needed it after leading 21-14 early, only to be tied at 23-23 after one.

Thybulle already had thrown down a wicked dunk as Australia pulled its offence together after trailing 28-32, producing an 11-2 response.

Leading 43-40 at halftime, threes by Matthew Dellavedova and Mills to start the second gave the Boomers the buffer required to keep Nigeria at arm's length.

Australia's stellar defence meant Nigeria scored its first basket of the second half at 4:41 in the third quarter before it finished strongly to trail 52-58 going into the last.

The Boomers already were pulling away when Chimezie Metu collected an unsportsmanlike foul and a tech in quick succession. Mills and Dellavedova from the stripe then pumped the lead out to 67-56.

A 3-pointer by Mills made it 70-56 and it was going to be too far for the flagging Africans, already hindered by their 24 turnovers and 12-of-24 free throw woes.

Australia showed great promise of better days to come, 21 turnovers something of an issue but one which should remedy itself as the team secures its new identity.

AUSTRALIA BOOMERS 84 (Mills 25, Kay 12, Exum, Ingles 11; Kay 8 rebs; Mills 6 assts) d NIGERIA TIGERS 67 (Emegano 12, Okogie 11, Achiuwa, Nwora 10; Achiuwa 6 rebs; Agada, Okogie 3 assts).

ITALY 92 (Fontecchio 20, Gallinari, Tonut 18, Melli 13, Mannion 10; Melli 9 rebs; Mannion 7 assts) d GERMANY 82 (Lo 24, Bonga 13, Obst, Wagner 12; Voigtmann 6 rebs; 3 with 4 assts).

THE Boomers face Italy on Wednesday. The Opals tip off against Belgium on Tuesday.

Jul 25

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.