The Australians trailed by 15 points in the second quarter but charged back behind the shooting of Clint Steindl (21 points, 5/10 three-pointers) and Todd Blanchfield (10 points, 2/4 triples), and the tough interior work of Cam Bairstow (21 points, 5 rebounds).
Come as they may the Boomers could not pinch back the lead at any stage, however, yet while they ultimately fell short they completed a brilliant tournament with silver medals and the respect of world basketball.
Russia were clinical early, Olympian Semen Antonov a handful inside, while fellow London bronze medallist Dmitriy Khvostov’s combination with big man Andrey Zubkov was also proving a thorn in Australia’s side.
Bairstow, Steindl and Blanchfield all made strong two-point baskets against the tall Russian defence to keep the Emerging Boomers close, but the home team’s pressure began to mount and Australian turnovers gifted them a 25-15 lead at the first break.
Things looked ominous when Olympian and first round NBA draft pick Sergey Karasev extended that margin to 15 early in the second, but as they have all tour the Aussies stood up to the challenge.
Mitch Norton’s (3 assists) defensive intensity lifted, and a long bomb from fellow Townsville Croc Blanchfield followed by a two from Cody Ellis turned the tide.
When Cadee and Mitch Young both found Bairstow with clever assists the margin was back to seven, and while the Russians returned their lead to double figures by half-time a Steindl triple to open the third stanza set the Aussies rolling.
Bairstow converted a tough three-point play, Steindl connected twice more from outside, Blanchfield scored athletically inside, and when he splashed a triple of his own the relentless Aussies were suddenly within two.
The Russians kept coming though, Dmitrii Kulagin scoring twice before a long Karasev heave on the three-quarter-time buzzer took the wind out of the Australians’ sails.
But Steindl opened the final term with five straight to all but erase the eight-point deficit and a tense few minutes ensued.
Foul trouble started to mount on the Australians and Zubkov and Khvostov extended the difference back out to eight with five minutes remaining.
Cadee found Bairstow inside to keep their hopes alive, but free throws kept the Russians at arm’s length as time began to evaporate.
With Cadee (7 assists) unable to produce the fourth-quarter magic that had carried his country through so many close games, a slow start finally caught up with the Aussies as Russia stayed composed from the charity stripe to close out victory.
It was still a most impressive performance from Australia, the home team having won their opening seven games by an average of 47 points with a smallest three-quarter-time lead of 15.
The Australians’ team defence was a highlight of the tournament, restricting teams to an average of just 65.9 points per game (ppg). Below are the team’s statistical leaders:
Cam Bairstow: 12.8ppg, 6.8rpg, 2.8apg
Jason Cadee: 12ppg, 2.9apg
Clint Steindl: 10.5ppg, 53% three-point shooting
Cody Ellis: 8.5ppg
Ryan Broekhoff: 8.4ppg 5.6rpg
Todd Blanchfield: 8.3ppg, 45% three-point shooting
Mitch Young: 7.6ppg, 4.9rpg
Andrija Dumovic: 5.9rpg