SAITAMA, Japan (AP)The wait needs to end now. Australia views this as its time to finally be standing on the medal podium when the Olympics are over.
”The whole country right now knows the desperation of this team, knows where this team’s at,” coach Brian Goorjian said. ”All eyes are on us.”
And the Australians won’t let their mission be derailed by an injury.
Patty Mills scored 24 points, Jock Landale added 18 and Australia pulled away Saturday for an 89-76 victory over Germany and an undefeated finish to group play.
Nic Kay helped the Australians finally break free in a close game and finished with 16 points.
Australia, which has finished fourth four times in the Olympics, was playing its first game since losing center Aron Baynes to a neck injury. He was hurt Wednesday, when the Australians beat Italy.
But the 6-foot-11 Landale and the 6-9 Kay did plenty of good work inside to make sure he wasn’t missed.
”I think we did a really good job of adjusting on the fly,” Landale said.
The Australians went 3-0 to win Group B, a balanced pool where they, Italy and Germany all played competitive games against each other.
Italy finished second at 2-1 and Germany will be one of the two third-place teams that will reach the quarters along with the top two teams in each of the three pools.
Andreas Obst scored 17 points for Germany. Niells Giffey and Johannes Thiemann each had 11 points.
The Germans stayed after their game to watch the first half of the U.S.-Czech Republic game. Once the Americans pulled away to win easily 119-84, it assured Germany would have a better point differential than the Czechs, who also finished third.
The teams traded swings of momentum for nearly 3 1/2 quarters before Australia finally seized it for good. Mills scored, fed Kay for a basket and then Landale scored for a 6-0 run that pushed a five-point lead to 83-72 with about 4 1/2 minutes to play.
Kay then followed a pair of free throws by Thiemann with two more baskets as Australia opened an 87-74 cushion.
Baynes, who finished last season with the Toronto Raptors, is a loss for the Australians. But Goorjian noted he was only playing about 15-20 minutes a game and Germany coach Henrik Roedl said the Australia might play better when he’s not on the floor.
”It might have actually helped them a little bit,” Roedl said, though noted Germany’s 45-28 rebounding advantage.
”The way they play compensated enough to beat us.”
Australia will open the quarterfinals Tuesday needing a victory and then one more to win its first Olympic medal. The Australians were fourth in 2016 in Rio.
Germany won the Olympic qualifying tournament in Croatia to earn one of the last four spots in Tokyo and earn its first Olympic spot since 2008. The Germans have also never medaled in men’s basketball.
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