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Xavier Cooks, Australia open FIBA World Cup with resounding 98-72 win vs. Finland

The Boomers start off the World Cup with a bang.

Australia v South Sudan Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Team Australia — the lone team featuring a Washington Wizards player on their roster in the 2023 FIBA World Cup — won their opening contest 98-72 against Finland on Friday.

The Boomers largely struggled in the first quarter, as Finland’s size and rim protection posed a huge problem in the early stages. Xavier Cooks first checked in at the 5:54 mark and had 2 of Australia’s 6 total field goals in the quarter. His energy and hustle helped keep the game close as his side trailed 21-17 at the end of the first.

Finland held a 38-30 lead, their largest of the game, with just 3:33 left in the second quarter. That’s when Australia seemingly flipped the switch. The Boomers closed the half on a 15-2 run that allowed them to carry a 45-40 edge at the break.

The rest of the second half was all Australia, who very much resembled the third-ranked nation in FIBA after halftime. The Boomers gradually built their lead up in the third quarter, thanks in part to strong finishes like this one from Cooks:

Australia’s lead swelled to as much as 29 in the fourth quarter, as international hoops icon Patty Mills found his touch in the final frame. Mills scored 9 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth to put Finland away.

Australia’s big guns performed exactly how fans would have expected. Mills’ 25 points and 8 rebounds led the way, while Josh Giddey was on triple-double watch all game with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. Joe Ingles tallied 13 points and 3 triples. Lauri Markkanen had little help as he anchored Finland with 19 points and 8 rebounds.

Wizards forward Xavier Cooks filled the early 2010s Trevor Booker role admirably, finishing with 9 points, 2 rebounds, and a half dozen energy plays off the bench.

Australia has a tougher challenge ahead of them as they take on Germany on Sunday.