Heading into Game 2 of the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championship, a spot in Rio 2016 is on the line for the Australian Boomers and New Zealand Tall Blacks.
After their 12-point victory in Game 1 on Saturday night, Australia are in the box seat as a victory or a loss of less than 11 points will see them qualify. A win will count for nothing for the Tall Blacks unless they can overcome the point margin as well.
Speaking at a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand head coach Paul Henare was confident despite the challenge his team faces.
“For us it’s half-time and we’re treating this series as an 80 minute game,” Henare said.
“I know the team is really excited about the opportunity of playing on home soil and we feel confident that we can play at a much higher level than we did the other night.
“If you break it down and we win every quarter by three points, it’s not a daunting task at all. For us it’s about being consistent throughout the night.”
Despite the win, Australian head coach Andrej Lemanis was still focusing on a number of areas of improvement from Game 1.
“Sometimes we got hung up on screens so we have to do a better job in communicating. We have to be great defensively, be committed to the defence, be committed to the box outs and… keeping them off the offensive glass is always an area of focus when playing the Tall Blacks.”
In Matthew Dellavedova’s first Oceania Championship in 2009, Australia carried a seven-point buffer into Game 2 in Wellington but were beaten comprehensively, 78-100, and lost the series.
“We’re definitely looking to atone for that loss,” said Dellavedova. “It was my first series with the Boomers and New Zealand came in and got hot. [Kirk] Penney was striking from three-point range and the crowd gave them a big momentum boost.”
Scoring 15 points in Game 1, Dellavedova’s influence at the defensive end was just as important as he attempted to slow down Corey Webster (a game-high 22 points).
“Webster is a key to their team and has been playing really well. A lot of focus is going to be trying to limit him, a lot of their offence is run through him so he’s going to get his shots up. It’s just about trying to make it as tough as possible.”
Defensively, the Tall Blacks have a similar issue in containing Patty Mills who shot 7-15 for 17 points and helped swing the momentum towards Australia in a tight fourth quarter.
“I don’t think we need to shut Mills down, we just need to have more a conscious effort of making sure he doesn’t get as much as space as he did the other night,” said Henare.
“They [the Boomers] are such a good side that you have to be near perfect at the defensive end.”
The match can be viewed via FIBA’s YouTube Channel below.