Game Day Preview: Three-step process for Slovenian revenge

Game Day Preview: Three-step process for Slovenian revenge

Finally, the FIBA Basketball World Cup gets underway later today, and the Aussie boys get a chance at vengeance against Slovenia.

By Paulo Kennedy - Guest Writer during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Five current-day Boomers – Andersen, Baynes, Gibson, Ingles and Newley - were in Turkey four years ago when the Light Greens handed out an 87-58 pasting in the knockout rounds, but they will know revenge is a dish best served cold.

Indeed, the Slovenians have ice water running through their veins, renowned worldwide for their disciplined execution and precise ball movement.

At last year’s Eurobasket they were 6-1 in games decided by single figures, so unless the Boomers can find a way to force them into uncomfortable situations, closing out victory will be tough.

The Slovenians  have no great secrets, their dual high-post set-up geared around creating middle penetration, something they do as well as almost any team in world basketball.

Obviously Goran Dragic is exceptional in this area, and pinning him towards the sideline or getting the ball out of his hands is a must.

Expect some containment-type traps on the Phoenix star that encourage him to move the ball on while cutting down his opportunities to split the defence and cause havoc.

Andrej Lemanis’ men can’t focus too much on Dragic though, with his brother Zoran, Jaka Klobucar and the athletic Jaka Blazic all capable of getting into the paint and creating for their array of waiting shooters.

The Slovenian frontcourt has been sorely depleted by the absence of hard man Gasper Vidmar and Euroleague stars Erazem Lorbek and Mirza Begic, but the mobile version they bring to Spain will test the foot speed of Australia’s more cumbersome frontline.

At the other end though, the Boomers must attack inside.

Veteran centre Uros Slokar is solid but his body isn't what it used to be, so don’t be surprised to see Matt Dellavedova and Joe Ingles involve the 31-year-old in repeated ball-screens.

He will also struggle to match Aron Baynes strength inside as he rolls to the basket, as will raw but talented youngster Alen Omic.

Defensively the Slovenians like to force wing pick-and-rolls to the baseline, and I suspect Chris Goulding and Ryan Broekhoff are licking their lips at the prospect of weakside corner triples, with the Boomers executing San Antonio’s “Kawhi Leonard play” impressively so far on tour.

But while the X and Os battle will be intriguing, this game is likely to come down to possessions and hence effort.

With Dragic at the helm the Boomers may not be able to force mistakes at their usual rate, but the Aussies can make their mark, and hence control the tempo, on the glass.

The Slovenians are one of the world’s better offensive rebounding teams – watch out for the hustle of young small forward Edo Muric – but that could be to Australia’s advantage.

The Boomers have looked exceptional when they clear the boards and run, and if their opponents are committing numbers to the o-boards the likes of Dellavedova, Newley, Ingles, Goulding and Brock Motum could get some great open-court opportunities.

Both teams like to flow into offence using early on-balls, so taking the initiative in the tempo battle and forcing the Slovenians to expend their energy defensively is a must.

That means keeping Dragic and Co out of the middle, perimeter players swooping on the boards then sparking the transition game, and moving the ball from early in the shot clock to expose the soft underbelly of Slovenia’s defence and force rotations.

Achieve those three things and the Boomers will make a big first step towards a top two finish in Group D.