Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis insists the belief remains but is bracing for the inevitable backlash after Australia coughed up another big lead to finish fourth at the basketball World Cup.
The Australians lost to France 67-59 in the bronze medal game in Beijing on Sunday, giving up a 15 point lead when they appeared in complete control in the third quarter.
The loss was compounded hours later by watching Spain win the World Cup over Argentina 95-75, the Boomers having controversially lost to the ultimate champions in a double overtime semi-final on Friday.
It is the fifth time the Boomers have lost a bronze-medal game, the four previous coming in Olympic competition and most recent a one-point loss to Spain in Brazil three years ago.
The Boomers were humming in the third term when Ingles’ (17 points) three-point play over Utah Jazz teammate Gobert put them up by 15.
But he went off briefly thanks to the blood rule and it all fell apart, France heating up after a 25 per cent shooting effort from the field in their worst World Cup first half since 1963.
Turnovers, 19 in all, were again the killer while four-of-17 shooting from long range left them with nothing to counter France with when they finally woke up.
Andrew Albicy’s nine points came at all the right times for France, while Nando de Colo’s 19 points cancelled out Patty Mills’ 15.
Aron Baynes entered with a groin injury but played through the pain in a shortened 13-minute stint, having starred against the French in Monday’s 100-98 win in Nanjing.
Lemanis said fatigue played into their poor execution down the stretch in both losses, pointing out they had played well in clutch moments earlier in the tournament as they built a 6-0 record.
“I don’t know; I guess we’ll find out in time, right?,” he said when asked if the side had a monkey on its back.
“I guess that’s what everybody will talk about, but you play the game as it unfolds in front of you .
“You can’t question the effort and I think there’s certainly belief in the group that we’re good enough to go get a medal.”
The entire team refused to address media as they left the court, many heading to the dressing room with tears in their eyes after another near miss.
“We just sat in the change room and you could hear a pin drop until we walked out here,” bench utility Mitch Creek said in the press conference later.
For everyone in Australia. … everyone that supported us and backed us in … it means the world to us. We gave it absolutely everything we had.”
It is more heartbreak for Lemanis and the core group that came within one basket of Olympic bronze against Spain at the 2016 Olympics.
“The sorrow comes from the effort that the boys put in,” he said.
“Them not being rewarded for the sacrifices and commitment to them and playing the right way.”
It had hardly been the ideal lead-in with Andrew Bogut only cleared to play in the hours leading up to the match after a foul-mouthed spray in the aftermath of Friday’s double overtime loss to Spain.
Bogut was reported as saying: “We all know where FIBA’s headquarters is. It’s a f–––ing disgrace. Cheating ass motherf–––ers… Google where headquarters of f–––ing FIBA is … f–––ing disgrace”.
He had also rubbed his fingers together in a money gesture after a dubious foul was called on him that allowed Spain to take the lead in the final seconds of regulation time.
It was expected the former NBA star would face a fine or suspension, but he was ultimately cleared to play.
In the grand final Spain never looked like losing.
Tournament MVP Ricky Rubio scored 20 points and Sergio Llull added 15 for Spain (8-0), the ninth team to make it through a World Cup or world championship unbeaten, while Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed on Sunday.
For Marc Gasol, it was historic. The Toronto Raptors centre becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom, who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and USA Basketball in 2010.
Gasol also became the 19th player to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.
And he’s the first to accomplish that feat while representing a nation other than the US.
“NBA champion and a World Cup champion as well,” Gasol said.
“What can I say? How does it sound to you? I feel very fortunate to be in this position and be able to play this game and help these guys be part of history of Spanish basketball.”
Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), who got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.
“We’re sad right now. We’re very sad,” Scola said.
“But I feel confident, in hours, we’ll be able to look back and be very proud. They just played better than us. They were better. They deserved to win. They were the better team in the game and the tournament.”
Spain led 43-31 at intermission, after putting together a 14-2 run to open the game and a 17-1 run later in the half.
“This is basketball,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said.
“If you play better than the other team, you win the game. And Spain was the best team today.”
BOOMERS BRONZE-GAME WOES
* 1988 Seoul Olympics: Lost 78-49 to USA
* 1996 Atlanta Olympics: Lost 80-74 to Lithuania
* 2000 Sydney Olympics: Lost 89-71 to Lithuania
* 2016 Rio Olympics: Lost 89-88 to Spain
* 2019 China World Cup: Lost 67-59 to France