Another comeback ruins Tall Blacks' hopes
At halftime the Tall Blacks sniffed an upset; at fulltime they were left staring at cold, hard reality.
A third quarter meltdown saw New Zealand slump to a second straight defeat, 76-63 to Australia's Boomers in the Fiba Oceania basketball series in Canberra yesterday/today.
The Tall Blacks must have fancied their chances when they worked into a 39-33 halftime lead, but a frigid third quarter cost them dearly as Patty Mills and his Boomers cruised to a comfortable victory that sees them sweep the series,
Both teams will play at next year's World Cup in Spain - a situation that removed much of the edge from this series - but it's the Tall Blacks who have to step their game up over 40 minutes.
That will be helped when a hefty number of frontliners return - including veteran star Kirk Penney and NBA rookie Steven Adams - but there would have been disappointment that over two straight games in this series they failed to sustain their challenge.
Corey Webster again led the Tall Blacks with 16 points (7/14 FG, 2/7 3PT) and he had some solid support from Casey Frank (11 points on four-of-five shooting) and Tom Abercrombie (10 points and five rebounds).
Others had their moments - notably Mika Vukona with seven points and eight boards and BJ Anthony's seven points and five rebounds - but in the end the New Zealanders were out-talented by an Aussie outfit who elevated their game when they needed to.
The classy Mills was again the most influential figure in the game, with 21 points (7/12 FG, 5/9 3PT), five steals and three assists.
At times he toyed with the New Zealand guardline and he always had an ability to shake loose for an open shot when needed.
The rest of the Australian lineup chipped in as required and with former Breakers mentor Andrej Lemanis able to bring in talented performers at will, the Tall Blacks had no answer when it counted.
The game was almost a carbon copy of the series opener at the NSEC on Wednesday.
As happened then, the Tall Blacks played a solid first half, this time eking out a six-point halftime lead (39-33) with another disciplined effort led by 10 points from the smooth hand of Webster.
The Tall Blacks shooting guard had plenty of help also, with Abercrombie, Anthony and Frank (all six points) and Vukona and Jarrod Kenny (both five points) weighing in to keep the score ticking over.
But again the Boomers made their move in the third period, and again the Tall Blacks had no answer as they saw the game drift away from them.
As the Australians went to the next level and the New Zealanders were left running in mud, a 28-7 quarter for the home team led by - who else? -- NBA guard Mills saw them lead by 15 (61-46) heading into the final term.
Mills really got it going to pour in 13 points in the quarter and his team-mates keyed off him on a 20-2 run that flipped this contest on its head.
"In the second half defensively we got after it just like we did in game one and again over the course of 40 minutes we were able to wear them down," said Lemanis afterwards.
Mills endorsed his coach's read. "It came from our defence," he said. "We were able to get some stops and were able to run out of it."
Australia 76 (Patty Mills 21, Joe Ingles 12, Adam Gibson 11)
New Zealand 63 (Corey Webster 16, Casey Frank 11, Tom Abercrombie 10)
1Q: 20-17; HT: 33-39; 3Q: 61-46.
- © Fairfax NZ News