Two days after contending with the powerhouse United States team well into the fourth quarter, Australia turned primarily to its role players to defeat China, 93-68, in a Group A men’s basketball prelim. NBA players Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova had a muted impact in the game, while Andrew Bogut did not play at all.
With 20 points and nine rebounds, China’s Yi Jianlian, formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks, kept his country competitive throughout the first half.
In the final minutes before halftime, an Australian run pushed the lead to double figures, where it would stay for the rest of the game.
A total of five Aussie players scored at least 12 points, led by big man Cameron Bairstow with 17 and Brock Motum with 15. Bairstow also grabbed nine rebounds to lead the team.
The slow start by Australia – they led by just three after the first quarter – can likely be attributed to the residual effects of their battle with Team USA. Poor shot-making and turnovers allowed China to stay in the game.
Mills and Dellevadova both played over 32 high-octane minutes in the previous game, and were unable to contribute in a similar way against China.
Working in Australia’s favor was their depth on the bench, a luxury few teams in the Olympic tournament have.
Players like Aron Baynes, Ryan Broekhoff and David Andersen, alongside Bairstow and Motum, still displayed a higher level of talent than the Chinese could produce.
With the victory, Australia guarantees themselves a spot in the elimination round. They will close out pool play on August 14 against Venezuela.
China is now winless through four games and has a low chance of advancing to the knockout stage. They can help their chances of survival significantly in their final matchup against one-win Serbia, also in two day’s time.