Tall Blacks fall in World Championship opener
By SCOTT PRESTON in Izmir - Stuff
Last updated 06:39 29/08/2010
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There was no first-game upset for the New Zealand Tall Blacks as they fell 92-79 to Lithuania in their FIBA World Championship opener in Izmir.
Despite a game-high 37 points from shooting guard Kirk Penney, New Zealand fell victim to Lithuania's high screen-and-roll and inside presence as forward Linas Kleiza went for 27 points and eight rebounds.
Kleiza, now with the Toronto Raptors, torched the Tall Blacks with 11-of-15 shooting from the field, including 3-of-5 on three-point attempts, and was assisted by 15 points from big man Paulius Jankunas and 14 points from Jonas Maciulis.
A second quarter disaster, where the Tall Blacks were out-scored 25-10 and allowed Lithuania easy basket after easy basket, ultimately cost them the game. Although they made small runs in the third and fourth quarters, New Zealand could not find the big momentum-changing basket to seriously threaten down the stretch.
"We came out and didn't execute defensively and that set the tone for us," forward Tom Abercrombie said. "Giving up 92 points or whatever it was isn't going to win you many games.