Boomers 76 Tall Blacks 63

Sport. Australian Boomers V NZ Tall Blacks at AIS arena. Click for more photos

Australian Boomers v NZ Tall Blacks

Sport. Australian Boomers V NZ Tall Blacks at AIS arena. Photo: Karleen Minney

He’s played in NBA finals and the Olympics, but this was a special moment for Patrick Mills.

And now he’s ticked playing at ‘‘The Palace’’ off his bucket list, his next goal is guiding Australia to a breakthrough medal at next year’s World Cup.

The Canberra-bred star made his first-ever game at AIS Arena count with a huge display in the Boomers 76-63 win over New Zealand on Sunday.

Mills scored 13 of his 21 points in the third quarter to help Australia arrest a 39-33 half-time deficit, and seal a 2-0 Oceania championship series win.

While the Boomers were strong favourites, the win in front of 3700 fans was a confidence booster before next year’s World Cup in Spain.

Australia is yet to score a place on the podium at the Olympics or a World Cup, and Mills has no doubt they can break the drought.

“To be honest it [playing in Canberra] is right up there, the feeling of finally being on this court and doing it for Australia,’’ he said.

“The focus and the mindset of everyone in our inner circle is to do exactly that [win a medal], and I think we have the pieces to do it.

“I’ve said a million times we can’t go over there and just compete any more, we have to make a stand for Australia.’’

While he credited Australia’s ramped up defence for the match-winning 28-7 third quarter, it was point guard Mills who took the game by the scruff of the neck.

His steal and two-pointer to begin the third quarter changed the momentum of the game.
Mills admitted he had steeled himself to take over the match after half-time.

“It was a sense of trying to be a leader and trying to do that by actions,’’ he said. 

“You live off the atmosphere at home and it felt like there was a momentum swing in the whole arena then.’’

As they did in game one in Auckland on Wednesday, New Zealand ran out of legs after half-time, despite the efforts of guard Corey Webster (16 points).

Swing man Joe Ingles (12 points) and guard Adam Gibson (11) were influential for Australia.

The crowd lifted when Boomers youngsters Dante Exum and Ben Simmons came off the bench, particularly after a Simmons slam dunk late in the first half.

New Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis believes the exciting youngsters can lift the profile of the game in Australia.

''They’re obviously exciting players with exciting skill levels,'' he said. ''As far as [increasing] interest in the game? Absolutely, the crowd loved them.''

Lemanis just as convinced they can make history in Spain.

“The guys [from the overseas leagues] showing up for this series is testament to that line of thought,’’ Lemanis said.

“They’re keen to do something special, and to do that  ... we need to spend some time together.’’

AUSTRALIAN BOOMERS 76 (Patty Mills 21, Joe Ingles 12, Adam Gibson 11) bt NEW ZEALAND TALL BLACKS 63 (Corey Webster 16, Casey Frank 11, Thomas Abercombie 10) at AIS Arena on Sunday. Crowd: 3700.