The Boomers did it again at the death, ousting France 100-98 to remain unbeaten and avoid the United States as they shoot for a historic basketball World Cup semi-final berth. The Boomers rallied from nine points down in the third term, Patty Mills again proving the difference with a Cup-high 30 points and crucial intercept in the final four seconds.
With scores tied and five seconds to play, Matthew Dellavedova had put Australia ahead with his first free-throw but his second rimmed out, France regaining possession before player-of-the tournament candidate Mills stole back the ball.
It sealed a fifth-straight dramatic win for Australia in a Nanjing classic French coach Vincent Collet described as “amazing”. The unbeaten sides went toe-to-toe with top spot in their second-phase pool on the line on Monday night. With the United States topping the opposing pool, the prize was avoiding the two-time defending champions until the final.
It means Australia, chasing a maiden final-four appearance, will shift to Shanghai and meet the Czech Republic in a quarter-final on Wednesday, while France face the United States in Dongguan.
Mills (30 points) and Aron Baynes (five three-pointers in 21 points) again shot the lights out while Joe Ingles (23) stepped up to neutralise Utah Jazz teammate and defensive powerhouse Rudy Gobert (eight points, four rebounds, six assists). France had ample avenues to the basket, Evan Fournier leading with 31 and Nando de Colo with 26.
“I’m too tired to think about what just happened,” Ingles said. “Baynsey took three charges in a row, Patty was huge. We had to have a big game to beat them.”
Both sides traded blows in Nanjing but Dellavedova’s fourth foul midway through the third term tips the scales in France’s favour. They skipped ahead by nine with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ point guard on the bench, Rudy Gobert icing the run with a dunk from another turnover.
Triples to Mills and Ingles stopped the rot but the French still led by four at the final break. Another Baynes triple made it a one-point game early in the term and it became another dogfight for the Australians.
Baynes’ defensive work on Gobert helped the Boomers regain the momentum and his hook shot gave them back the lead with seven minutes to play. A shoot-out followed, both teams trading big baskets as the lead changed hands and Mills again had the final say.
French coach Collet could only tip his cap to the Australians post-game. “This game was amazing, probably the best since the beginning of the tournament,” he said. “It was outstanding, very often.”