There is a lot to Aron Baynes’s game these days, but the Boomers’ heavy-hitter is still keeping things simple.
The intimidating centre was instrumental in shutting down French NBA star Rudy Gobert in Australia’s 100-98 basketball World Cup win that set up a Wednesday quarter-final against the Czech Republic.
New Phoenix Suns signing Baynes (21 points) made five-of-six triples and took three final-quarter charges as the Boomers came from nine points down to book a date with the dark horse Czech outfit in Shanghai.
That followed another superb night that helped Australia past Lithuania on their way to a Cup-best 5-0 campaign in China after already defeating Canada, Senegal and Dominican Republic.
An NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs, Baynes was a rough diamond when first uncovered as a Cairns schoolboy.
He has worked overtime on his game, most recently adding a three-point shot to his repertoire that silenced the French in Nanjing on Monday.
Coach Andrej Lemanis gushed at his all-round exploits after he’d helped the Boomers closer to a maiden World Cup semi-final appearance.
But Baynes isn’t getting bogged down in the details.
“What goes through my mind is just ‘don’t move’ make a hit,” he said of his match-turning defensive plays.
“Our guys are busting their arse as best they can; I have to step up and put my body on the line.”
He said his time with fellow NBA products Joe Ingles, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova and the tournament standout Patty Mills in the green and gold is “the most fun he has in basketball”.
“We definitely live for this,” he said.
“It’s our second family; we’re trying to do it for the guys that’ve been there and set the pathway for us and we’re trying to build for the future as well.”
Aside from Baynes’s strong performance, Mills shone as the first Australian player in 21 years to score more than 30 points in a World Cup game.
The San Antonio Spurs’ point guard was 10 of 18 from the field, landing three out of eight attempts from beyond the arc.
Ingles also kept his World Cup form going, scoring 23 including three three-pointers, and was a perfect four from four on free throws.
Australia’s win meant they avoided a last-eight showdown with the United States, although the Czech Republic will still pose plenty of problems with their ball movement and efficiency.
“The good thing for us is we still have a lot to improve as well,” Baynes said.
If the Boomers are successful against Czech Republic in the quarter-final, they will face Spain or Poland in the semi-finals.