The New Zealand basketball team, the Tall Blacks, travelled to the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain lacking size. With questions over who wasn’t on their team, their campaign with their reputation’s enhanced.
Questions also lingered over the Tall Blacks lack of size upfront, with both seven-foot centers, New Zealand’s only NBA player, Oklahoma City Thunder center, Steven Adams, decided to make himself unavailable after the Oklahoma City Thunder season was completed, and New Zealand’s other seven-foot center, Alex Pledger got injured in New Zealand’s build up series against Korea.
Already underdogs entering the World Cup and with the loss of their two seven-footers, expectations where low for the Tall Blacks, heading into their first game at the World Cup against Turkey.
To the surprise of everybody, the Tall Blacks responded to the setbacks by dominating Turkey for long periods of their opening game. The standout players for the Tall Blacks in this game were Corey Webster, who lead the team in scoring with 22 points and Rob Loe with 11 points.
Unfortunately for the Tall Blacks, they faded badly in the fourth quarter and gave up a huge lead, losing to Turkey in their first game.
In New Zealand’s second game, they played the Dominican Republic, with the bad taste still in their mouth after conceding a huge lead in their loss to the Turkey, New Zealand looked flat and slumped to a disappointing loss.
The eventual gold-medal champion United States was next up for the Tall Blacks.
The Tall Blacks were not expected to compete against the might of Team USA and looked over-awed early in the contest, giving up a huge first quarter lead. To the surprise of many, the Tall Blacks responded and even won the third quarter and only lost the fourth quarter by four points.
Although the Tall Blacks loss to the USA by double digits, the momentum they gained from winning a quarter against Team USA helped them in their game against the Ukraine.
Heading into their game against the Ukraine, the Tall Blacks needed to win their remaining two pool games to qualify for the second round of the World Cup. Lead by veteran Kirk Penney, New Zealand beat Ukraine 73-61, to register their first win of the tournament.
Going into their last pool game against Finland, the Tall Blacks knew if they won, they would make the second round of the World Cup.
Playing impressively throughout the first three quarters of the game, New Zealand built a double-digit lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Tall Blacks almost blew it, but held onto register a two-point win, 65-67, and qualified for the second round of the World Cup.
After qualifying for the second round of the World Cup, the Tall Blacks faced Lithuania.
The Tall Blacks got off to a terrible start losing the first quarter 23-9, with Lithuania on course for a blow out, the Tall Blacks responded and won the next three quarters, but gave up too much in the first quarter and lost 76-71, ending their World Cup.
Although not the most talented team, New Zealand did impress with their performances at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and for the most part, they exceeded expectations.
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