The Boomers’ unbeaten basketball World Cup grind has continued with an 82-76 defeat of the Dominican Republic in China.
It was far from pretty against the swarming Dominicans, who pushed Australia’s buttons and had last-game star Aron Baynes fouled out early in Saturday’s third term.
Again, Patty Mills (19 points, nine assists) steadied the side in a whistle-happy affair, Chris Goulding’s 11 first-quarter points were crucial and Andrew Bogut’s calm playmaking belied the boos that continued to come his way from the Chinese crowd.
Australia move to 4-0 in the tournament and, if Lithuania lose to France later on Saturday night in Nanjing, will be granted early confirmation of their first Cup quarter-final in 37 years.
Not since Columbia in 1982 has Australia made the final eight of a World Cup or Championships. Then, they finished fifth in a 13-team tournament.
Eight campaigns have come and gone since, the Boomers plugging away towards a maiden major tournament medal.
In China, alongside a tournament record 31 other teams, Australia are firming as one of the cup fancies with memories of their Melbourne defeat of two-time defending champions United States still fresh.
Regardless of the result in the other game in Nanjing, the Boomers can guarantee their place in the final eight with a win on Monday against France.
A win over the French would also likely mean Australia avoiding a quarter-final date with the USA and meeting Brazil, the Czech Republic or Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Greece.
In their own words, the Boomers “had found a way” in wins against Canada, Senegal and Lithuania that all came despite trailing.
That was certainly the case again on Saturday, with a frustrated Australian outfit unable to find any rhythm against a nippy Dominican defence.
Mills, having put Australia on track, picked up an accidental third foul in the third quarter and was forced to sit again.
He returned in the final quarter, with an early triple calming the nerves before Jock Landale dunked Mitch Creek’s lob to put them 11 points clear.