The Tall Blacks have started their Asia Cup campaign on a winning note, but with plenty to work on.

A 70-49 victory over Kazakhstan was a minimum requirement for the young Tall Blacks side, who initially laboured before sparking to life in the second half.

Kazakhstan would safely be the worst international side the Tall Blacks have faced in recent memory, meaning the Tall Blacks' first half struggles would have concerned head coach Paul Henare.

The 29-22 halftime score aptly displays what was a terrible offensive opening, but the Tall Blacks grew into the game in the second half, eventually controlling the contest and looking a far more cohesive unit.


It's no coincidence that their improved second half showing correlated with increased minutes from point guard Derone Raukawa, with the diminutive ball-handler looking potent attacking off the dribble, providing the Tall Blacks offence with a much-needed kick.

Scoring could still be an issue for the Kiwi side at the tournament, with the squad lacking in players who can penetrate opposing defences and create open looks. However, their defence showed promise, bouncing back from a few early missed rotations to smother the Kazakhstan guards.

How much of their defensive success came down to poor execution from the Kazakhs is hard to parse. At one point their opponents had 13 points and 13 turnovers, and seemed incapable of solving the traps and presses the Tall Blacks were sending their way.

They ended with 27 turnovers, with the Tall Blacks always swarming, and making up for any lack of length with some nifty foot-speed and high hands in the passing lanes.

Despite their offensive inadequacies, for a while, it inconceivably looked like Kazakhstan would stick around. Their seven point halftime deficit should be been closer to 20, but the Tall Blacks were also struggling to get anything flowing on offence.

That's when Raukawa made his impact, flying off screens and using the middle of the lane to either open up floaters, or drive to the cup. He compiled 17 points on 7/12 shooting, and provided a nice complement to the solid Shea Ili, who had 13 points.

As things opened up, the Tall Blacks started to hit their threes, with Jordan Ngatai (10 points) and Finn Delany (15 points, 10 rebounds) both connecting from distance as the lead quickly shot out to double digits.

Kazakhstan had no response, but did provide the highlight of the game by shooting a one-handed, under-armed three pointer with five seconds left on the shot clock.

The win virtually ensures the Tall Blacks will advance to the preliminary stage, but their quest to top the pool will be tested against the hosts, and one of the tournament favourites, Lebanon, at 6.00am on Friday.