Angola kept its hopes of advancing to the 2014 FIBA World Cup knockout rounds alive with a 91-83 comeback win over Australia. Yanick Moreira had 38 points and 15 rebounds for the winning side.
There was talk coming into the game about how much effort Australia would show. It had already qualified for the knockout stages. Finishing third in Group D would avoid the United States, one of the tournament's two main powers, until a potential semifinal rather than possibly the quarterfinals.
Head coach Andrej Lemanis downplayed that discussion, saying the Boomers achieved a goal and couldn't affect the other results anyway, as noted by the Australian Associated Press (via The Guardian).
"We've ticked off the number one thing of qualifying, going through to (the knock-out games in) Barcelona, somewhere in the top three," he said. "We can't affect a lot of what happens with the outcome (of the Lithuania-Slovenia game)."
Australia certainly came out with the same vigor that allowed it to secure three straight wins after an opening loss to Slovenia. Dante Exum, the No. 5 overall pick by the Utah Jazz in this year's NBA draft, led the first-quarter charge with seven points.
Sportando noted it was already a career mark for Exum, who's come off the bench for the Aussies, as he helped his team to a 22-17 lead:
Already career high in @FIBA World Cup for Dante Exum: 7 points in 4:33 minutes of action.— Sportando (@sportando) September 4, 2014
Ed Isaacson of NBA Draft Blog wasn't surprised by the hot start by the combo guard:
If Exum is going to look good against anyone in Spain, it may be against Angola— Ed Isaacson (@nbadraftblog) September 4, 2014
Angola was able to keep it close thanks to some timely outside shooting when it looked like Australia might be ready to pull away. But the underdogs didn't convert enough of their opportunities in the paint to grab the lead after the first.
How far will Australia advance?
After those failed chances by the African squad, the Boomers started to stretch out their lead in the second quarter. Chris Goulding found his shooting stroke from beyond the arc, finishing the first half with a trio of threes and 13 points.
Lemanis continued to use a heavy rotation, looking to keep his players fresh looking toward the round of 16. It allowed Australia to show off its depth with role players like Exum and Goulding stepping up when called upon.
On the flip side, Angola struggled on the offensive end, scoring just 12 points in the second period. It finished the first half shooting 39 percent from the field with seven turnovers and just four assists. Armando Costa paced the team with eight points.
Basketball Australia noted the halftime score:
Angola played much better team basketball after the break. It made two separate charges, the first to pull back within five midway through the third quarter. The run was capped off by a Yanick Moreira dunk.
Then, after Australia had stretched the lead back to as much as 15, the Angolans fought back again. They ended up finishing the quarter on a 12-2 run to cut the Australian lead to two. They scored 34 points in the quarter after tallying just 29 the entire first half.
Adam Papageorgiou of Magic Basketball Online was impressed with the comeback bid:
Angola is not going down without a fight. Reeling in the Aussies.— Adam Papageorgiou (@adamosgp) September 4, 2014
Basketball Buzz highlighted the strong play of Moreira:
Australia 65 - Angola 63 @ end of the 3rd Q. Yannick Moreira 26p/10 on 12/16 shooting. #Spain2014— BasketballBuzz (@basketballbuzz) September 4, 2014
He continued that strong game with a jumper to open the final quarter, which tied the game at 65. Brock Motum answered right back for Australia with a trey at the other end, though.
After trading buckets, Angola was able to grab its first lead since the opening period midway through the fourth quarter. Eduardo Mingas grabbed an offensive rebound off his own free-throw miss and Moreira eventually turned the second-chance opportunity into a 77-76 lead.
Australia went ice cold from the field a short time later, allowing Angola to pull away. The Aussies' final rally fell short. It's worth noting that neither Aron Baynes nor Joe Ingles ended up playing in the loss.
NBA Australia passed along the result:
As mentioned, the win keeps Angola in the mix for the final spot out of Group D. A South Korea victory over Mexico would all the Angolans to finish fourth, which would set up a clash with the United States to open knockout play.
As for Australia, it will now finish third in the group if Lithuania beats Slovenia in the pool's final game. A Slovenia victory would mean the Boomers finish second. Either way, they should be well rested after spreading the minutes around in their group finale.
Both teams, should Angola advance, will play counterparts from Group C. The seeding is yet to be determined.