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Australia must overcome Lithuania for a shot at the medals

17 August 2016

BASKETBALL: Lithuania only regained its independence in 1991, but for the sixth Olympics since then they stand between Australia and a chance to progress in the Olympic men’s basketball competition. An Australian win on Wednesday at 11am (midnight AEST) will see the green and gold advance to the semi-finals for the fourth time in Olympic history.

Australia finished second in group play with four wins from five starts, and will face Lithuania who began the tournament with wins over Nigeria, Argentina and Brazil, but dropped its last two games to Spain and Croatia.

The Australians have been the second highest scoring team in the tournament, averaging 88.8 points per game over the five group games, converting at 51.6%.

Australia also boasts some of the leading performers in the tournament, with Patty Mills second in scoring at 20.5 points per game (PPG), Andrew Bogut 15th in scoring with 13.0 PPG, and Matthew Dellavedova pacing the assists leader board with 8.6 per game.

Lithuania has relied on Mantas Kalnietis who has averaged 19.2 PPG on 64.2% from the field along with eight assists per game.

The Australian squad has not been shy in stating its ambition at the tournament, and a win over Lithuania will set up a semi-final against either Serbia or Croatia.

“It will be even more difficult (than the group games). We will be ready for that game,” four-time Olympian David Andersen said after the group stages.

“We have big targets. We are aiming for the medals. We feel confident. We have played good games and to get four wins is great but it doesn’t count if we go out in the quarter-finals.”

Mills has also stated the goal of being the first Australian men’s team to step on the podium at an Olympic Games.

“We are going to Rio to win a medal,” Mills said ahead of the tournament.

“That is our goal and that is what we set out to do and we all believe in it which is obviously key. We all understand it is going to be a very hard task but the belief in each other that we can get it done is very exciting.”

This will mark the sixth time in the past seven Olympic Games that the Aussies have stared down the Lithuanians.  While the Lithuanians prevailed at the first four attempts, Australia has recent success on its side, having won 106-75 in 2008, and again at the World Cup of basketball in 2014, with an 82-75 victory.

Australia has reached the quarter-final stage in the past two Olympic Games, losing to the United States on both occasions. Overall this will be Australia’s seventh Olympic quarter-final, with wins coming at this stage in 1988, 1996 and 2000.

Kevin Diggerson

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