Canada sure seems to enjoy their first games against new opponents down under putting up 61 points in either half on Tuesday night to win big over the New Zealand Tall Blacks at Sydney’s Quaycentre.
Coming off their two games in Perth against the Boomers where Canada won first up by 20 on Friday night and then lost by eight on Saturday, they again turned it on in their opening match against New Zealand on Tuesday.
Canada shot out of the blocks early and never looked back, torching the Tall Blacks for 122 in the 40 minutes to win the game by 34 points to continue to look a well-oiled machine under Toronto Raptors NBA championship winning coach Nick Nurse.
The Tall Blacks weren’t helped with Alex Pledger (illness) and Shea Ili (ankle) joining Mika Vukona and Reuben Te Rangi on the sidelines, and by half-time coach Paul Henare’s blood was boiling and he only saw a marginally improved second half display.
Canada put up 35 points in the first quarter on the way to leading 61-36 at half-time. New Zealand did better offensively in the second half but Canada still scored another 61 points to win 122-88 even without Kyle Wiltjer playing and Kaza Kajami-Keane hurting an ankle after eight quick points.
The Canadians shot 55 per cent from the floor and went 16/36 at 44 per cent from three-point land while winning the rebound battle by 20 and scoring 52 points in the paint to 26. New Zealand shot 37 per cent from the field while going 15/46 at 32 from downtown.
There was plenty to like again by Nurse’s Canada with Aaron Best top-scoring with 20 points on 4/8 shooting from downtown. Andrew Nembhard put up another 17 points with a plus-minus of 38 when he was on the floor.
Oshae Brissett contributed 16 points and seven rebounds with Owen Klassen producing 12 points and nine boards, Kevin Pangos 10 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Duane Notice 10 points.
“The team has been meshing really well the last couple of weeks and I think we are bringing it all together. This was a good night for us,” Nembhard said.
“It’s really important to play for each other and coach preaches every day to make the right passes, and playing as a team. That’s what we’ve been doing.
“Now tomorrow we just have to stick to the process knowing that we’ve got to get better for ourselves. We’re working on us every day out here and they are just exhibitions, but we are trying to get better every day and improve on what we did the night before.”
There will be plenty New Zealand want to improve in 24 hours’ time with Tai Webster top-scoring with 19 points and seven rebounds. Isaac Fotu added 17 points, Rob Loe 17 (5/9 from three) and Corey Webster 13 points and six assists while going 4/10 from deep.
“Obviously that first half was terrible and we can’t come out that again because we’ll get killed by teams better than this,” Fotu said.
“The only thing we can take from it is coming out how we did in the second half and hopefully play more games like that. I have no idea what happened at the start, we have to go and have a little talk and discuss what happened because that’s unacceptable.
“I think you saw how much we missed Mika Vukona’s intensity and we are going to talk about that.”
With Canada coming off their two games in Perth against the Boomers and the Tall Blacks having played Japan, it was the Canadians who looked the sharper from the outset.
Canada scored first thanks to Phil Scrubb who hit two triples to open the game and they led 8-0 with a layup to Melvin Ejim, and then 10-0 with a bucket to Oshae Brissett.
The Tall Blacks eventually scored with free-throws to Isaac Fotu and then Tai Webster hit a three. When Jarrod Kenny and Ethan Rusbatch did the same, the Tall Black had pulled off a 13-2 run to take the lead.
But a couple of threes to Kevin Pangos and then eight quick points in a couple of minutes to Kaza Kajami-Keane heading to quarter-time saw Canada grab all the momentum and find scoring far too easily to lead 35-16 after one.
Canada then opened the second period with a triple to Aaron Best with Owen Klassen nailing another triple as the lead grew to 25. There was no let up either and the Canadians went into half-time in control, leading 61-37.
The signs were then ominous to start the second half with Brissett knocking down a three for Canada but the Tall Blacks then started to do a better job defensively and some shots started to fall, starting with a trademark Corey Webster triple.
Webster then added another and suddenly the Tall Blacks had some momentum and that continued when Rob Loe found Finn Delany for an alley-oop finish. Loe hit a three too, but Canada was still flowing up the other end and were soon back up by 20.
Canada had pushed it back out to 29 by three quarter-time after taking some better shots from New Zealand in the third quarter, and then the Canadians ended up cruising to the 122-88 victory.
The second game between the Tall Blacks and Canada will be back in the same building on Wednesday night from 7.30pm Sydney time.
WORLD CUP EXHIBITION GAME
CANADA BASKETBALL 122 (Aaron Best 20, Andrew Nembhard 17, Oshae Brissett 16)
NEW ZEALAND TALL BLACKS 88 (Tai Webster 19, Rob Loe 17, Isaac Fotu 17)