By Paulo Kennedy - Guest Writer during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Australia’s next opponent, Mexico, is coming off a bigger high after recording their first world cup win in 40 years by dismantling Angola.
Their previous win was on 12 July, 1974, a one-point win over Australia, and you can bet they’ll be looking to belatedly repeat the dose.
And while the Mexicans aren’t known as a basketball powerhouse – Joe Ingles thinks they're known for their beer – they are not a team to be trifled with either.
They stunned the FIBA Americas with a spectacular run to gold in 2013, and have been within striking distance of Lithuania and Slovenia in the third quarter at this tournament.
Their two NBA players – point guard Jorge Gutierrez and centre Gustavo Ayon – get the headlines in the mainstream press, but the reality is this team is filled with ‘no names’ from the Mexican league who grow an extra leg with the green shirt on.
This is a well-coached, well-drilled and well-prepared team who can play at different speeds depending on the situation.
Coach Sergio Valdeolmillos has been smart enough to unleash the natural flair of his team in transition, where Gutierrez and aggressive two-guard Francisco Cruz lead the way.
Big men Ayon and Hector Hernandez run the floor hard and are rewarded by their guards, and when the defence collapses the likes of Cruz, Orlando Mendez and Roman Martinez are all ready to fire from long range at the first opportunity.
Impressively, this team has the discipline to call off the fastbreak when nothing eventuates and run their half-court offence.
While Ayon is a focal point in the post and Gutierrez a slippery customer on penetration, it is Cruz and Hernandez who should be Australia’s biggest concern.
On almost every set, Cruz runs off single screens or staggers, from which he can catch-and-shoot, pull-up, or curl and get to the rim to score or create for teammates.
Once the defence collapses, 204cm power forward Hernandez will punish them with impunity, as he showed with a 6-of-10 three-point shooting display against Angola.
He is also a clever player who can penetrate or make excellent reads to find the open man.
It is a large compliment to Mexico and coach Valdeolmillos that the keys to victory against the Central American upstarts are the same as for European strongholds like Slovenia and Lithuania.
That is, if you let them run half-court offence as they wish it will be a long 40 minutes, but disrupt and challenge them to constantly make plays on the run and your defence will take its toll.
The Mexicans are used to playing ad-lib basketball, but their lack of depth will start to show as the Airbnb Boomers make them work to advance the ball on every possession.
The question for the Aussies is can they bring that intensity in Wednesday’s early game after such an emotional win?
Offensively the Boomers must be on their mettle from the first second they have the ball, as the Mexicans thrive on attacking the rebounder or ball-handler early to either slow the ball or force turnovers.
If Australia is ready to release that pressure and then kick the ball ahead they will score a bevy of transition hoops ala the Lithuanian game.
Mexico mostly play conservative pick-and-roll defence, with their big man sagging to protect the basket, so the Australian guards must come off the screen looking to score to make their opponents commit to the ball or the roller.
The Mexicans also aggressively deny the low post, opening up high-low opportunities the Boomers can use to force adjustments from their opponents.
Coach Lemanis will be looking for a repeat of Tuesday’s first half flow into offence, where early ball-screens and ball movement resulted in post feeds with 18 seconds on the clock and no help defence set to cover the aggressive Aron Baynes.
Mexico like to play fast, they have the discipline to play slow, but they have never faced a barrage of pressure like what the Airbnb Boomers unleashed on Lithuania on Tuesday.
If they can bring close to that intensity again expect their pressure to slowly wear down the Mexican challenge.
You can watch every second of the Airbnb Boomers V Mexico LIVE on ABC2 at 9:26PM AEST TONIGHT.