The Tall Blacks faced off against the second of two Chinese national squads in Chengdu tonight, with the result similar to that of a few days ago against China Blue, an 89-62 defeat against a team that just couldnt miss from long range.
Always targeted as the side with the better outside presence, China Red scored at 45% from deep, nailing 13 of 29 three-point attempts, many of them under shot clock and defensive pressure. That was complemented by a 55% return from two-point range, resulting in the highest concession by the Tall Blacks so far on tour.
Head Coach Paul Henare was impressed with what he saw from the opposition tonight, but not too dispirited at the effort of his young side.
"I thought they were two quite different groups, this China Red team shot the ball well, spread the floor and put our defence under pressure through penetration and spreading the floor with their shooters, once they got going they were difficult to reel in, once their two main shooters got open looks they were very tough.
"At the other end we were struggling to score, we couldnt put the ball in the hole and were on the back foot defensively. We just werent able to get a set defence and again on their home floor, as with most teams in front of their own fans, they got rolling and some of the shots they were hitting were extremely tough and we actually defended them well, but once the floodgates opened it was tough to stop."
Indeed, the Tall Blacks went at 30% from the floor by comparison, unable to capitalize on reducing their turnovers (11) and winning the boards (36-33) against their much bigger opposition. It was a combination of rushing their offence at times and simply not making buckets that cost the team, with the second quarter in particular the costly one as China turned a one-point deficit into a 17-point lead by the main break.
Henare was realistic in his assessment of his team however, suggesting that they might have plateaued after a great first two weeks together.
"We have had a really good rate of improvement through our first week in camp and our first tournament. This one has been a bit more of a reality check, with that continued pressure that teams face day in day out that these teams are used to. Possibly we are starting to hit a point where the effort these guys have been putting in for two and a half three weeks is catching up on them."
Best for the Tall Blacks were guards Derone Raukawa and Shea Ili, both ending with 15 points on a combined 11 of 21 shots made, with Raukawa particularly impressive in draining 3 of 5 long range attempts as he continues to be a scoring spark from the bench for the team.
The boards were shared amongst the bigs, with Finn Delany (8) and James Hunter (6) dominant, while ball security was much improved with just the 11 turnovers, a low number on the tour so far.
As has been the case throughout the camp and tour, the focus is very much on the Asia Cup, starting with a game against Kazakhstan in just a few days, with the team now starting to taper in preparation for that vital first pool game.
"We have one game left (Angola tomorrow night) but our focus has to shift to August 8th and Kazakhstan. We will play the game and recover the best we can of course, but in five days time we play in what is for most of these guys, their first real FIBA international match."
Tall Blacks 62
Raukawa 15; Ili 15; Delany 8 points, 8 rebounds; Hunter 8 points, 6 rebounds
China Red 89
Meng duo 26; Zhai Rui 20 Abdulasham 10
There is no online link to stats, the box score has been posted on @TallBlacks twitter
- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand