The boos are getting louder in China and Boomers player are being compared to rugby players, but Andrew Bogut says Australia’s job is only half done.
Australia will end a 37-year absence from the last eight of a basketball World Cup when it plays a quarter-final, potentially against the United States, on Wednesday.
A scrappy defeat of the Dominican Republic and France’s controversial win over Lithuania on Saturday ensured both victors a place in the top two in their second-round pool before they meet on Monday.
Neither game was without drama though.
Bogut and the Boomers were booed relentlessly by the Nanjing crowd before furious Lithuania coach Dainius Adomaitis sprayed the officials who oversaw their loss to France and added they were forced to “play rugby” in Thursday’s loss to Australia.
A social media swipe at controversial Chinese swimmer Sun Yang in the lead-up to the tournament was the catalyst for Bogut’s special reception, which looks set to amplify the deeper the Boomers progress.
Aside from a few dry remarks on Twitter, Bogut has steered clear of the issue, while serene coach Andrej Lemanis artfully dodged more questions about his star centre after Saturday’s victory.
“He’s the ultimate professional … his ability to impact us in a positive manner is substantial,” said Lemanis before freewheeling into how well the veteran played for the Sydney Kings in last season’s NBL.
We appreciate what he does for this group, we’re thankful to have him and we enjoy the way he plays.’’
No stranger to trolls, NBA champion Bogut is more concerned by his side’s inability to string together a complete performance.
“Clock management was horse s–t from us,” he said of the final stages of the Boomers’ win over the Dominicans.
“If you don’t manage the clock well in the last two, three minutes … I’ve lost games like that before, up eight with a few seconds left.
“You’ve got to be very careful.”
With the US strong favourites to top its pool, it is likely the loser of Monday’s battle between the Boomers and France will meet the two-time defending champions in a Dongguan last-eight showdown.
The victor will play either Brazil, Czech Republic or Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Greece in Shanghai for a place in the final four.
France, with a star core of Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier, will provide early insight into the Boomers’ medal prospects.
“It’s great but we don’t look at that,” Bogut said of Australia’s first quarter-final qualification since 1982.
“We’re trying to get eight wins … we’re at four right now and I believe eight gets a gold medal.
“That’s what we’re trying to count; (until then) all that history stuff doesn’t matter.”
BOOMERS’ ROAD AHEAD
Australia plays France at Nanjing on Monday (10pm AEDT), with both teams already assured of a quarter-final berth.
Win and Australia likely plays Czech Republic, Brazil or Greece in a Shanghai quarter-final on Wednesday.
Lose and the Boomers will likely play the US in a Dongguan quarter-final on Wednesday.