Turnovers cost Boomers World Cup bronze, but that can be fixed for Tokyo

There will be detailed post-mortems of the Boomers' quest for an historic medal, after a 67-59 loss to France in the bronze medal game relegated them to a fourth-place finish yet again in a major tournament.

But now is not the time for what-ifs and pondering the future; not when the perspiration is yet to dry. Not when time has not had the opportunity to apply its soothing balm and usher in perspective.

Cavalry may perhaps be on the way for Tokyo, but to pursue such lines at this point would be a horrendous disservice to those who devoted their blood, sweat and tears to this campaign. These Boomers fought. They were tireless. They did not relent in their quest for history; not even after such a heart-rending defeat to Spain a mere 48 hours ago.

The margin for error is minuscule at this stage of tournament play, when you come face-to-face with the best the world has to offer. It is a gruelling two-week schedule.

In that respect, the focus here should be on growth. As Andrej Lemanis has acknowledged during this tournament, each step has been an opportunity for growth and "learnings" within this team.

After being plastered by Senegal with offensive boards earlier in the group stage -- to the tune of 13 offensive rebounds -- the Boomers made a point of fortifying their defensive glass over the rest of the tournament. Since that outing,they clamped down on the defensive glass as a group, and limited strong front courts in that regard, including that of the powerful Lithuanian frontline, and even beasting Spain themselves in their semi-final loss.

Yet against France, they allowed 11 offensive rebounds in the first three quarters of play, allowing the French additional possessions when they were struggling from the field.

Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers. The Boomers would finish with 19 for the game. Most were not live ball giveaways, but every single possession matters. This is what defines high stakes games.

There is cavalier, and there is stodginess - the Boomers have consistently straddled this line. Passing and sharing the ball define who they are, but there is balance of when and how. In truth, the Boomers have been on the precipice for weeks.

Some of those turnovers involve a collective will in trying to do too much.

"We had some turnovers," said Lemanis postgame. "I think perhaps a little bit of fatigue [in the] backend of the tournament. Played a pretty short rotation, and so I think once you get a little fatigued sometimes that leads to some turnovers. A bit of lack of execution there. France also made some shots that they needed to make."

Matthew Dellavedova is a warrior. He will run through a brick wall for his team. He set the tone early tonight with his defence, thrusting his body with intent at Fournier, riling Gobert at one point. Dellavedova is the ultimate competitor.

Yet on offence, he does not have the burst, nor the off-the-bounce nous (say, like a Ricky Rubio), to slither deep into crevasses which prod open the best looks, and the easiest passes. Too often, Dellavedova flings long passes from the perimeter, and they're hit-and-miss. It's tough sledding to generate consistent offence with that methodology.

Over 7 games, Patty Mills led the team in terms of raw turnover total (he had 3 against France), and whilst his assist-to-turnover ratio was very poor, those totals are more a reflection of the volume of time he was on the court, as well as the creative burden he carried -- in terms of individually generating something, anything -- with the shot clock winding down. Still, his turnover rate was at a reasonable 16.3 percent, per RealGM.

Over the same period, Dellavedova accounted for 22.2 percent of the team's turnovers when he was on the court; Ingles was at 25.1 percent (!). Jock Landale was at 21.7 percent of turnovers when he was on the court, and he does not create.

This is something that Lemanis and his coaching staff will need to tinker with - they cannot continue to bleed possessions in major tournaments; not when the game shifts up a notch when you enter the final four. And it's here where the Boomers have to make that leap.

We've written before that basketball is a game of mistakes. Yet the game is also one of choice. When the game is described as make-or-miss, it is not necessarily only in the sense of field goal percentage, but rather, the opposition has made a choice that this is what they are willing to allow in their defensive scheme. Now it's a matter of whether you make the shot or miss it.

That has characterised the Boomers' over-arching defensive stratagem of allowing contested midrange looks, but eliminating shots at the rim, and three-point looks: we're happy for you to shoot those 15-footers with Delly scrambling behind you.

Those are choices.

In the first half, France compiled brick after brick in two-point range, as the Boomers funnelled their shooters inside the arc. France had made their choice to attack the areas the Boomers would allow. But it was also an uncomfortable decision foisted upon them by the Boomers. In one possession, Vincent Poirier (who was tremendous) pivoted multiple looks, looking for an option, before reluctantly throwing up a midrange shot after his options were closed down. He made it, but it's a choice the Boomers lived with.

France were limited to 23 percent for two-point attempts at the half. The Boomers only allowed 6 three-point attempts from France in the first two quarters.

And when Ingles danced with Rudy Gobert in the right corner, before flipping in a reverse layup and an and-one over the French centre to open a 38-23 lead, the Boomers had opened up a 15-point advantager against a frazzled opponent. This game was there to be put away.

Yet Nic Batum galvanised the French with his activity on both ends of the court, blocking shots, deflecting passes, taking charges and hitting shots; France came alive after looking distracted during the first half, too concerned with the Boomers' physicality.

France had cut the Boomers' lead at three-quarter time to 46-42; the Boomers barfed up the ball 6 times in the quarter.

In the second half, France had also successfully tilted their shot selection. They made a choice. Instead of taking the shots the Boomers wanted them to take, they recalibrated, setting screens higher up the floor to allow their dangerous guards to step into a three-point look once their defender was mushed by Gobert or Poirier. They adapted.

In the fourth quarter alone, France took 10 three-point attempts, nailing five. The Boomers themselves were 4-of-17 from beyond the arc for the game, at 24 percent.

"They made some plays that gave them a bit of momentum," said Lemanis. "We just sort of weren't able to ever really stop it with just a couple of good solid defensive stops, or a couple of clean offensive possessions, and it got away from us a little bit."

And when Andrew Albicy iced another triple with 1:06 left in the fourth quarter, his third of the frame, the Boomers' medal hopes had crumbled.

That may be the next step for the Boomers. How can Lemanis and his staff can adapt to shift those choices into more uncomfortable ones? Is there a counter?

Whilst France adjusted, the same issues plagued the Boomers. Their offence, when humming, can be a sight to behold. But it's one thing to pick apart a team you're expected to meet, and another matter altogether when you face an opponent deep into a tournament, when mistakes are more costly, and when every possession matters.

This is not gratuitous nit-picking; this is what the Boomers have to consider to find efficiency in those 4-5 possessions that can ultimately be so impactful when you face an equally talented opponent. How do the Boomers generate points without Patty Mills?

Courtesy of Jordan McCallum of JordanMcNBL.com, over the first 7 games of the tournament, Patty Mills unsurprisingly logged the most minutes, and the Boomers have needed every one of them. He was plus-62 overall; per 36 minutes, the Boomers were plus-9.4 with Mills on and minus-10.4 when he sat. In effect, that's a differential of 19.7 per 36 minutes.

Mills has accounted for 26 percent of the Boomers' points across the tournament before this game. Finding another avenue will be key - this is about finding that edge ahead of Tokyo.

Landale's development will be crucial. Before this game, he was plus-10 in total, but the Boomers had a higher scoring margin when he was off the court - Landale was in effect minus-5.9 per 36 minutes.

Over the first 7 games, Nick Kay was plus-19 overall, but minus-1.6 per 36 minutes. He broke even against France and proved he is worth persisting with.

In the aggregate, the Boomers were 6-2 across the tournament. They have built upon the respect that the world has for the national program over the course of these two weeks. They were genuine medal contenders. Yet that is not where they wanted to be; they want to win.

To give themselves another shot -- this time at an Olympics -- they will need to continue to grow.