A big backward step. That was the summation of from Head Coach Paul Henare after the Tall Blacks lost a game that they should have won, going down 67-62 against Lithuania in Chengdu, China.
After making progress in each of their three games played in Kunshan, the Tall Blacks were poor in some of the effort areas that often define Tall Blacks basketball, and it didnt please Henare.
"I thought we came out and started the game alright but we had a few mental errors early on and they compounded, we gave up a defensive error and gave up a bucket, had a poor offensive possession and they come down and score, we got out to a good lead but we undid our good work.
"It was still a tight game and we had our chances. It was almost identical to the last one, we were down six towards the end but we managed to get back even with 30 seconds to go but unfortunately, we couldnt close the game out again so there is definitely plenty to learn from."
Henare was not making excuses, far from it, he was bitterly disappointed with what he saw from a team that he knows can play at a higher level. As passionate as a coach as he was during his decorated playing career, Henare does expect this group to learn and learn quickly.
"When you get into tournament situations, you have to be on point with what you are doing throughout the day and how you prepare and how you are resting and how you are recovering because the games happen really quickly. This is our fourth in five days with a travel day in between, but the other teams have been through the same, our guys might not be used to that workload but this will be good for them. The last World Cup we played five games in six days, it is a tough, tough ask, in some ways it is more good learning experience for them."
Henare also made it clear to his team his expectations when they line up against China at the same Chengdu venue in less than 24 hours.
"I want to see more application to detail, instructions and being able to execute on the floor. We have spoken about our baseline effort being better than other teams and I thought that was a big step backwards. Lithuania out rebounded us which they did in the first game, those messages arent sinking in right now, but the good thing is we have a couple of games in the next couple of days to rectify that."
New Zealands good start was on the back of a dominance in the paint by Sam Timmins, with six early points and another spark from the bench in the form of five quick points for Derone Raukawa, the lead was threatening double digits before poor ball control and cheap fouls allowed Lithuania to close to just one point down at the main break.
From then the game took many turns, with both teams going on small runs, but neither could break the shackles. New Zealand drew level at 59 with a remarkable three-point play from Raukawa, making a jump shot while being fouled and then nailing the free throw. But it was Lithuania who remained calm in the closing moments, running their offence and disrupting the New Zealanders who rushed their shots or took wrong options.
Tall Blacks 62
Raukawa 12 points; Timmins 10 points, 11 rebounds; Delany 6 &9;
Vaitk 11; Martinas 10; Kristupas 10
- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand