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Game Two Preview: Guangzhou

The CPA Australia NBL All Australian side has some work to do to bridge an eight-point gap when their three-game series with China resumes on Sunday in Guangzhou. As expected the Asian champions – who are likely to take seven players from this squad to the Rio Olympics – were better organised when the pressure dialled up after half-time in Game 1. However, between adjusting to the style of refereeing, cutting down on some poor decision-making and hitting wide open shots, coach Andrej Lemanis will be confident his team can upset their powerful opponents in Game 2. Strong start a good sign It all started so well for the green and gold in Game 1, not only racking up a double-digit lead but looking by far the superior side. With Jason Cadee attracting plenty of defensive attention coming off the ball screen, the Aussies moved the ball with purpose, shot with confidence and attacked the gaps in the Chinese defence with aggression. Melbourne duo Majok Majok and Todd Blanchfield were the ‘go to’ men, Majok creating headaches inside with some strong post moves and Blanchfield almost automatic with 3-of-5 shooting from outside. Just as impressive were the Aussies efforts on the offensive glass, Jesse Wagstaff with three for the half but numerous teammates getting their hands in to create those chances. Dealing with pressure Things went awry when Chinese guards Sui Ran and Fang Shao lifted the defensive intensity after the break. Instead of Cadee and Mitch Norton coming off ball screens and attacking the paint, the pressure from China’s guards and ‘hard show’ from their bigs forced that pint-sized pairing to play ‘east-west’ across the court. As a result the help D didn’t shift, the ball stopped moving, the Aussies drives were into set defence instead of gaps and the offence grinded to a halt. Look for Lemanis to have his big men set some early ‘north-south’ screens that allow Cadee and Norton to attack them at pace. Also expect some slipping action from the likes of Majok and Jesse Wagstaff to punish any over-exuberant help on the ball-screen. The onus is also on Cadee and Norton to dictate where they enter the ball into the offence, rather than getting channelled to the sideline as they so often were after half-time on Friday. Patience, movement and open shots Once the ball gets into the offence Lemanis will be comfortable with what he saw. Daniel Kickert, David Barlow, Tom Garlepp, Wagstaff and Blanchfield are unlikely to shoot a combined 4-of-19 from long range again, especially if they get as many open looks. The biggest adjustment will be having patience on penetration. Too often the Aussies went straight at China’s big men for little reward, rather than keeping the dribble alive and finding holes in the defensive rotations. Lemanis will also talk to his players about picking the right shot. In the first half, their ball movement opened up offensive rebounding opportunities, but after the break there were too many quick shots which allowed the set Chinese defence to clean the glass and run. Stop the bigs At the defensive end the equation is equally simple. When the Australians’ intensity was up early in the game China struggled to get their big men good looks inside. When they were given a little bit more time and space after half-time, however, the ball regularly found the powerful duo of Zou Yu Chen and Li Mu Hao close to the basket and they made the Aussies pay. Look for Lemanis to send help defence quicker in Game 2 and make the Chinese prove they can win this from the outside, where they were 3-of-17 on Friday. The other adjustment is being ready to contain penetration. Small forward Ding Yan Yu Hang sparked China’s third-quarter run with his attack on the basket, the broken down Australian defence then giving the hosts far too many free-throw opportunities. Who’s helping Vinnie? An eight-point margin isn’t much to make up – especially with Mickell Gladness not having to make a mad dash from the airport to the stadium on Sunday – the Aussies just need more consistent contributors. Todd ‘Vinnie’ Blanchfield made a statement with his 13-point, seven-rebound, four-assist, two-steal performance in Game 1, but his only effective helpers were Wagstaff (7 points, 7 rebounds) and Majok (6 points, 5 rebounds). Tune into Fox Sports or the livestream from the NBL website on Sunday night at 9.30pm to see if the CPA Australia NBL All Australian side can bounce back.
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