DONGGUAN -- There were familiar foes amidst an unfamiliar setting in Dongguan, yet the script that followed was distinctly different. In this wildly fluctuating screenplay, there was punch and counterpunch followed, for two straight hours. As monsoonal rain battered Dongguan Basketball Centre outside, a deluge of its own sluiced down the lane, again and again, as the Boomers pummelled Canada to open their World Cup campaign with a 108 - 92 demolition.
There was the familiar refrain from coach Andrej Lemanis that "everybody's willingness to play in the best interests of the group" is the bedrock of Boomers' culture, and the staple for this important opening salvo of what is hoped to be a long tournament run.
Yet as often is the case, there is the opposite spectrum in introspection for the other side.
"I thought the start wasn't very good for us," Canada coach Nick Nurse said. "And I didn't think the end was very good. I thought the middle was excellent."
For the Boomers, the star cast was familiar, with Joe Ingles orchestrating the surgical pick-and-roll attack, Chris Goulding pacing the Boomers early with perfect shooting, and Matthew Dellavedova with his ever-relentless defence and timely scoring.
Dellavedova said he felt comfortable with his revamped shot, considering his accuracy woes of late.
"I feel really comfortable. I've put a lot of work in over the off-season," he said. "[I can] get it off quicker."
It still doesn't look quite right -- like a cross between a Steph Curry flick and Joakim Noah spin -- but the results were undeniable on this occasion.
Disregard the shooting for now - that's a bonus. His tenacity and presence on defence is palpable. He started the game defending Kevin Pangos, harassing and chasing in a tireless display. His early work neutered the Canadian offence as the Boomers backline defence rotated crisply, a far-cry from their at times sloppy execution during the pre-tournament exhibitions.
In the second half, Dellavedova seamlessly switched and trained his sights on slithery danger man Cory Joseph, who had clawed Canada back into the contest.
In the second quarter, Joseph showed his value to this Canadian team as he amped up the pace and played with force. On one possession, he flew high and snagged an offensive rebound before finishing a close range shot over Aron Baynes. Then, he knifed into the lane for a lefty layup after driving 90 feet untouched.
Ingles was a menace, using his long arms for deflections and getting into the sightlines of ball-handlers. On offence, he continues to be the Boomers' best playmaker with his slow-motion duking, and Chris Paul-like snaking in the pick-and-roll dance.
For Canada, Pangos and Joseph must be on the court at all times - Nurse will stagger their minutes more. They will still play together a tonne.
"You probably noticed he was the off the ball a lot more tonight," Nurse said of Joseph. "I just think that Kevin's a real natural point guard and we want to use those skills there."
Despite the final margin, Canada has proven to be worthy challengers, despite the spate of withdrawals; and despite the pre-tournament cloud hanging over the availability of Cory Joseph.
Still, Canada were plodding, particularly in that first quarter. The Boomers were the aggressors, behind an electric, rabid audience who appeared to appreciate the majesty of ball movement -- of the value of the extra pass -- as the Boomers mercilessly chopped and diced the Canadian pick-and-roll defence.
The Boomers shot a mind-boggling 59 percent at the half, including a ridiculous 15-of-20 for two-point looks; 13/17 in the paint (76 percent), winning that battleground 26-16 at the half. The Boomers obliterated them 50-32 for the game at 71 percent.
Canada's pick-and-roll defence was particularly ragged, succumbing to the ills of shoddy backside defence, with no help the helper applied. Once the two central defenders were engaged on the ball-handler, the big had a free run to the rim.
"We were making some big mistakes in letting the bigs get behind us to the rim," Nurse said. "I think they were getting a lot of close baskets."
"We shot 70 percent from inside the arc - part of that was because we were prepared to get it in there, and share the ball," Lemanis said. "We had 24 assists as a result of that as well."
The Boomers have always said that they're an inside-outside team. When they attack the rim, things open up along the perimeter. The Boomers were at 11-of-27 from deep, at 41 percent.
"Our first half, we showed that we could do some really good stuff," Goulding said. "And we also showed that we weren't where we needed to be defensively."
That was evident as we witnessed the proverbial flip of the script in a wild, stunning third quarter by Canada.
"We regrouped," Nurse said. "[After] halftime we came out put a heck of a third quarter together."
That heck of a third quarter included 22 points within the first five minutes behind a ferocious, withering run -- 22-5 to be precise -- that has come to characterise this squad under Nurse. They would score a staggering 37 points in the third period.
Integral to the comeback was the tempo of Joseph, ripping precious defensive rebounds down amidst the trees in the paint, pushing the pace at every opportunity, probing a backpedalling Boomers' defence and drawing furtive glances from defenders on high alert.
After Joseph, it was Pangos' turn to orchestrate, pulling the strings at his measured, assured pace, sinking open looks the Boomers yielded, or using his gravity to draw help, causing a chain of panic rotations that had Boomers flying by and opening up driving lanes.
Yet it wasn't enough, as the script flipped again for the final frame.
"Give them some credit," said Nurse of the Boomers' defence in that fourth quarter. "I think we were really scoring, time after time, after time in the third [quarter]. I'm sure they were asked, or encouraged, to pick it up a little bit defensively. And they did."
"We got slapped in the face a little bit," Goulding said. "We realised the situation that we were in and picked it up again, and managed to get a good solid win."
What will have been particularly encouraging was the even contributions across the board. Patty Mills took only nine shot attempts.
Perhaps the game was a microcosm of the Boomers recent form - outstanding, sublime performance is invariably followed by something less than inspiring. If the Boomers are to make history, they will need to tighten things up and play 40 minutes.