Slow-starting Tall Blacks toppled by Japan as Rui Hachimura torches them for 35
A rusty Tall Blacks side had no answer to the offensive firepower of Japan's NBA first-rounder Rui Hachimura in Chiba on Monday night.
Paul Henare's New Zealand men opened their World Cup buildup schedule with a slow-out-of-the-blocks 99-89 defeat to Japan after a week-long training camp in nearby Atsugi.
They will meet fellow World Cup-bound Japan again in Kawasaki on Wednesday night, when Henare will be hoping for a much more polished effort now they have their first hitout under their belts.
Hachimura, Japan's first NBA first-round pick after being chosen No 9 overall by the Washington Wizards this year, showcased his pedigree with a standout performance against the New Zealanders.
The 2.03m power forward finished with a game-high 35 points at an impressively efficient clip. He was 13-of-17 from the floor, made both of his long-ball attempts, and added 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Experienced big man Nick Fazekas added 21 points (9/15 FG) and 7 boards for the home side while speedy guard Yudai Baba chimed in with 12 points and 6 assists.
Tai Webster paced the Tall Blacks with 18 points (6/14 FG, 1/6 3PT) and 7 assists, while Isaac Fotu got his inside game going in the second half to pile in 16 points and 10 rebounds. He made all seven of his shots from inside the arc.
Corey Webster added 14 points, 4 boards and 4 steals for the Tall Blacks, though struggled to find his stroke from deep, making just one of his nine attempts from 3-point land. Ethan Rusbatch put in a good shift off the bench to finish with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2 of 4 from deep).
Tom Abercrombie chipped in with 10 points and 5 rebounds for the New Zealanders, while Rob Loe knocked down two triples en route to 10 points and a pair of rebounds.
The New Zealanders paid the price for their ice-cold start as they allowed the Japanese to go on a 16-0 run on the way to an early 18-2 lead. The Kiwis cut the deficit to 11 at the end of the opening term and just six (49-43) at the half, but could never get any closer than a half-dozen thereafter.
The Tall Blacks were just 6 of 35 (17 per cent) from the 3-point line and can expect to improve that number significantly as they find more of an offensive rhythm. They were a red-hot 25 of 36 from inside the arc.
Henare's men shaded the rebound battle 39-35, but coughed up 13 turnovers.
Most concerning of all for the coach would have been the ease with which Hachimura collected his points. They will have to lock down a lot better on defence from here on in.
Japan 99 (Rui Hachimura 35, Nick Fazekas 21, Yudai Baba 12), New Zealand 89 (Tai Webster 18, Isaac Fotu 16, Corey Webster 14, Ethan Rusbatch 12, Tom Abercrombie 10, Rob Loe 10). 1Q: 27-16; HT: 49-43; 3Q: 79-68.