The New Zealand Tall Blacks took on the Australian Boomers last night in the FIBA Oceania championships. Here's a recap of what went on with light to players or NBA relevance.
Fear The Sword boasts a large contingent of members from the land down under, Australia. Being from New Zealand myself, I thought it would be good to have a write up on the match that took place last night at the North Shore Events Centre that involved a couple of draft prospects and a few players with NBA ties.
Always staunch rivals in every code of sport, matches between Australia and New Zealand are always hard fought. Although New Zealand had home court, Australia were considered huge favourites in this game. Boasting many successful players from the top leagues of Europe, two players on NBA training camp rosters in Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova along with two highly touted NBA prospects in Dante Exum and Ben Simmons. The 'Tall Blacks' boasted just one player with NCAA d1 experience, Thomas Abercrombie who played just 1 season at Washington State where he averaged around 2 minutes a game. The rest of the team was made up of National league players, Australian National league players and guys still in high school.
The first half was all Tall Blacks, the New Zealand side executing perfectly on offense with their constant man and ball movement. FIBA Oceania play is often dominated by a steady diet of dribble hand offs and full court pressure and this was no different, with Patty Mills pressing Tall Blacks point guard Jarrod Kenny into having power forward Mika Vukona to bring the ball up the floor. The Tall Blacks couldn't miss to take a 39-32 lead into the half, Vukona with 9 and off guard Corey Webster with 10. Patty Mills kept the Australians in it with 11.
The second half was a complete reverse, with Mills' constant pressure forcing the Tall Blacks into a multitude of turnovers, leading to the New Zealanders scoring just 20 points after the major break. Mills continued his strong play to finish with 20 (8/18, 2/9 3PT) with veteran big man and former Houston Rocket (among other teams) David Andersen chipping in with an efficient 12 points. Boomers runaway winners 70-59.
NBA Players and prospects:
Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova were the two guys on NBA training camp rosters and both of them showed their class in this one. Mills was certainly the MVP, his full court pressure harassing the New Zealanders into multiple turnovers and his quickness able to blow by the slow footed Kenny. This forced the New Zealanders to go into a 1-3-1 zone which the Australians easily dissected. Dellavedova played almost exclusively off the ball as a shooter and scored 11 points on 4/9 shooting. It was a poised showing from the WCC player of the year, with him running through endless screens and around hand-offs in order to cull the Tall Blacks' dangerous outside shooters.
There were also two highly touted NBA prospects on show, with guard Dante Exum slated to go in the top 5 of the 2014 NBA draft and forward Ben Simmons considered a high level prospect in the 2016 draft. Exum's quickness was evident on the night, he looked to have a lot of explosiveness and bounce in his stride. However playing with and against players much older than himself, his passiveness showed. He rarely looked to attack off of the bounce, even against the ridiculously slow footed Tall Blacks guards although he played very limited minutes. I was very impressed with Simmons. The 6'9" forward finished with 2 points, 2 steals and a block in around 5 minutes. He looked like he could jump out of the gym and played with a lot of emotion. There were two highlight plays for Simmons, with a block on Tall Blacks' high fligher Thomas Abercrombie, who boasts a 7'0" wingspan and a 40' vertical, on an attempted dunk. Simmons also got a steal at mid court on a trap, using his length to deflect Everard Bartlett's pass and then streaking down court to get up with ease for a two handed jam. He is one to watch for the future for sure.
All in all it was a game played without top players from either team. New Zealand was without 2010 FIBA World Champs second leading scorer Kirk Penney and recent NBA draftee Steven Adams. This is in addition to d1 players Rob Loe, Isaac Fotu and Tai Webster. The Boomers were without their star Andrew Bogut, who quite frankly would have obliterated the Tall Blacks front line. Australia showed their class in the end but it was a game they were always going to win. I was much more intrigued in the NBA prospects in the game, and hopefully I could give you a brief write up of how they performed. If you have any questions on any of the prospects just ask in the comments, I have the game on demand too so I can do a little film breakdown if needed.