Rio Olympics: Perth Wildcats’ Damian Martin in defensive form as Boomers beat Lithuania in men’s basketball quarter-finals

Damian Martin defends against Lithuania's Antanas Kavaliauskas during the men's basketball quarter final at the Rio Olympics. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
Damian Martin defends against Lithuania's Antanas Kavaliauskas during the men's basketball quarter final at the Rio Olympics. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

PERTH Wildcats captain Damian Martin played a big part in limiting dangerous Lithuanian point guard Mantas Kalnietis to just 12 points as Australia advanced to its first Olympic semi-final in 16 years.

The Boomers dismantled Lithuania 90-64 in a comprehensive quarter final victory built on relentless defensive pressure and the kind of crisp passing that has been a hallmark of their Rio campaign to date.

Martin fouled out of the game late in the final quarter but not before amassing two points, four assists, a rebound and four steals in 16 important minutes on the court.

In an early sign of what was to come, Matthew Dellavedova hit consecutive triples to open the game and lay the foundations of an early Boomers lead.

Melville resident Martin checked into the action early in the first quarter as Australian coach Andrej Lemanis elected to rotate his back court in a bid to keep it fresh and aggressive in defence, with Kalnietis receiving special attention all night.

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The plan worked, with Kalnietis struggling to find the ball and limited to just six points in each half.

Toronto Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas could only manage five all game as Lithuania’s usually free-flowing offence sputtered in the face of the Boomers suffocating press.

The constant harassment led to Lithuanian turnovers, and at the other end of the floor the Boomers poured in points seemingly at will – converting eight of 15 from three point range in the first half to race out to a 48 – 30 lead at the main break.

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While most of Martin’s work came in defence, he did pop up on the offensive highlights reel with a beautifully timed alley-oop to Baynes midway through the second quarter.

Lithuania began the third with a flourish and went on an early 8-4 run but it was short lived, with the Boomers reapplying the shackles and working Aron Baynes into the game in the paint for a series of powerful dunks.

Australia’s task was made easier by a second quarter injury to starting power forward Paulius Jankunas that forced him out of the game.

Fellow starting forward Jonas Maciulis landed in foul trouble early and ultimately exited the game just a minute into the fourth quarter – providing another blow to third-ranked Lithuania’s chances.

Offensively, Patty Mills (24 points) and Dellavedova (15 points) carried the load in the first half before Baynes (16 points) and Ingles (10 points) asserted themselves after the break.

In a pleasing departure from a worrying tournament trend to date, the Boomers won the turnover battle comfortably 9-17.

Australia is next in action at 2.30am Saturday against the winner of the Croatia-Serbia quarter final.