Written by Oliver Kay
Baynes was nothing short of dominant against Lithuania on Thursday night. Finishing with 21 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and a block, he gave exactly the performance a rebound-starved Boomers team needed.
“[Baynes] always seems to get up for playing Lithuania, he enjoys the challenge of going up against true big bodies,” said Andrej Lemanis after Thursday's game.
Spearheaded by Baynes’ heroic effort, Australia out-rebounded Lithuania 40-32, with an 11-9 offensive rebounding advantage, finally ending the team’s worrying trend of being outworked on the glass in Group H play at the FIBA World Cup.
The Dominican Republic is Australia’s next foe, and while Australia will be the heavy favourite to secure the win, their opponent presents a number of unique challenges for them to navigate.
What is most unusual about the Dominican team is their size, or lack-there-of. Dominican Republic is one of the smallest teams in the World Cup, with an average height of 195.5 centimetres compared to Australia's average height of 199.6 centimetres. And while a difference of 4.1 may not seem like much, it will have an impact on how the Dominicans approach Australia.
Baynes' will once again look to set the tone on the glass against the Dominicans, after he collected six rebounds in the first period against Lithuania to spark a hot start for Australia. Controlling the offensive glass and creating second-chance opportunities will once again be a huge factor on the night, with early box outs and establishing position the key.
Much like a judo practitioner looks to use the momentum of a bigger opponent against them, the Dominicans will look to do the same against the Boomers, particularly when attacking the Australian defence.
Largely due to necessity, the Dominican Republic are likely to deploy a small-ball lineup during much of the game, in the hope it will force Australia’s bigs out of the paint and onto the perimeter.
One of Australia’s strengths is the depth of talent they have in the big man department. With Baynes, Andrew Bogut, Jock Landale and Nick Kay, the Boomers can construct a number of large lineups to suit particular needs. Although they all have amazing talent, Australia doesn’t have quite the same depth when it comes to wings and guards. This is where the Dominican Republic could try to exploit Andrej Lemanis' squad. By using small-ball combinations they will try to reduce Australia’s pool of viable players and lineups.
To maintain control of the game Australia will need to work diligently to protect their bigs from being taken advantage of by fighting through screens and denying switches and mismatches. If they are able to execute, and allow their size to remain a factor on the court, they will be well placed to come away with another victory.