Recap: Bogut shoots Australia into the medal round

After a rocky start with two disappointing losses, Andrew Bogut has put Australia's Boomers on his back. Following his 22-point, 8-rebound effort in Australia's 95-80 throttling of Russia, Bogut was once again the main man as Australia annihilated the previously undefeated Lithuanians 106-75 last night.  However, Australia made a scorching 16 of 25 from distance, including an eye-popping 3/3 from Bogut, who made 10/12 shots from the field for 23 points in only 16 minutes.

All told, the Aussies are soaring into the quarterfinals, knocking off European powers Russia and Lithuania, behind (believe it or not) Bogut's three point shooting. The 7-foot center has morphed into a legitimate threat from long distance in Beijing, making 5/6 from behind the arc over the last two games. It's a far cry from the way Bogut began the tournament, putting up a mere 8.5 points and 2.5 boards in 23 minutes over the first two games. The disappointing play of Bogut and his Boomers was enough to make t Australia coach Brian Goorjian came out and publicly defended Bogut, putting himself on the line instead.

"If it doesn't go well, I think you should look at the coach because if the country is not happy with the way Andrew Bogut is playing, I've gone along the same game plan since I've had the team." 

Whatever the case, Bogut has responded and keyed his team to three straight blowout victories. He's been driving, dunking and shooting his way to better than 18 points and 5 rebounds in only twenty minutes, on 60% from the field in three straight blowout victories.

Bogut's revived jumper has done wonders in opening the offense up for both he and his teammates. Instead of receiving a pas top of the key, and holding the ball in hopes of finding a cutter, Bogut is going into instant attack mode. He can either pull up for a three if no one's on him, and when he guarded on the perimeter he's used various shot fakes to drive all the way to the basket, where he's been able to do things like this.

Bogut's doesn't get a whole lot of lift in his shot and it seems to be mostly arms, but unlike in the past there doesn’t seem to be any hesitation or hitch, and Bogut is locking and loading very confidently (although he couldn't hold back a smile after sinking his third three against Lithuania). The hot shooting has also helped to open up passing angles for his teammates. With his jumper falling, it's become easier for Bogut to be a more effective facilitator when he does get the ball at the top of the key, as he uses a little shot fake to help create some high-low action. He hasn't been afraid to dribble down the length of the court when the Aussie backcourt needs to get out of a pickle.

In short, Bogut seems to have established himself as the Alpha Aussie. He's ready and asking for the ball and his teammates are really making more of an effort to find him. He's been very vocal during timeouts, and when he isn’t in the game he spends ample time on his feet. cheering on his teammates.

Two years ago at the World Championships, Bogut was badly outplayed by Lithuanian center Robertas Javtokas, who put up 16 and 12 while repeatedly scoring on Bogut down low and snatching rebounds out of his grasp. Last night Bogut got some measure of revenge, having his way with Javtokas around the basket and taking him out to the three-point line to give the Lithuanian's eyes a good rinsing.  Bogut has also made much more of an effort to run the court, which has created a number of easy transition scoring opportunities for himself.

And while Bogut has certainly been the big Boomer on campus, he is getting some help. Young backcourt mates Patty Mills and Brad Newley have been taking the ball to the rack with reckless abandon. The 5'11" Mills has been a huge sparkplug for Australia, jittering past every perimeter defender any country throws at him and acrobatically finishing around the basket. The feisty 19 year old has shown no fear, even snapping at Linas Kleiza to let the rugged Lithuanian know he wasn't happy about a foul. Houston Rockets draftee Brad Newley has also done an excellent job of driving to the lane, putting his body on the line and often finishing strongly despite a lot of contact. Mills, Newley, and Bogut should form a nice Australian core for years to come. Of course, that core faces its stiffest test next, as Australia will take on Michael Redd and Team USA in their first elimination game on Wedneday at 10:15 am.

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