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NBL Tall Blacks prosper

Photo Courtesy of Basketball Australia New Zealand Breakers star Corey Webster showed NBL players can mix it with the best in his performance against NBA guards Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills on Saturday night. The 26 year old shooting guard scored a game-high 22 points for the New Zealand Tall Blacks against the Australian Boomers at a sold out Rod Laver Arena in game one of their two-game Rio Olympic qualifying series. The Boomers won 71-59 and the two sides will play the return leg of their series in Wellington, New Zealand on Tuesday night with the Tall Blacks needing to win by 13 or more points to claim the series. Webster was one of several Breakers’ in the All Blacks side along with Mika Vukona, Thomas Abercrombie and Reuben Te Rangi. Webster was the focus of the Boomers’ defence but still found ways to use his teammates’ screens to find openings to shoot. Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare said seeing Webster targeted by the Boomers’ defence showed Webster’s talent. “I think [Webster] was targeted tonight,” Henare said. “There’s no secret about our system, it’s run in large part for Corey to get his looks. “I thought he made pretty good decisions for the most part, throughout the game. “I don’t think they can target him any more than what they did tonight.” Mills was impressed by Webster too. “He is just a straight scorer, a great scorer too who can shoot and create his own and he has the ability to create for others when he gets going,” Mills said. “He had a great third quarter which is what we need to tighten up and manage better.” Tall Blacks stalwart Mika Vukona put on his usual tireless display battling NBA big men Andrew Bogut and Cameron Bairstow and more than holding his own. Vukona made some important shots and gave the Tall Blacks great poise just as NBL fans have seen during his many years in the league. Heading into game two of the series in Wellington Vukona could do well to offer his side a few more baskets and relieve some of the scoring load on Webster although just as important will be Vukona’s ability to keep Bogut and Bairstow from becoming a threat on offence as both had relatively quiet scoring games on Saturday night. Thomas Abercrombie is another Tall Blacks star who needs to offer more in game two of the series if this side is to make up the points difference. Abercrombie only had three points in game one but as we have seen in the NBL this past season he has a lot more to offer on offence and should be more of a threat in Wellington. Henare said he expected Abercrombie and others to find more scoring chances next game. Te Rangi looked a much more mature presence in his role off the bench for the Tall Blacks as he knocked down his only three-point attempt and looked to enjoy going blow for blow on defence with the Boomers. Te Rangi had a strong year for the Breakers and looks stronger and even more skilled so regardless of how many minutes he gets in game two, he should be a player to watch when the new NBL season starts in October. Sky Sports New Zealand will broadcast Game 2 of the FIBA Oceania series from Wellington on Tuesday 18 August, 2015 while livebasketball.tv is also expected to stream the game live.
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