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Team USA vs. New Zealand Preview

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Can a team of long range bombers hit their mark against the American All-Stars?

The spark off the bench that you might not expect.
The spark off the bench that you might not expect.
Jason Oxenham
2014 FIBA World Championship Group C
(8-5 in prelims)

(4-0 in prelims)
September 2nd, 2014
Bizkaia Arena, Bilbao, Basque Autonomous Province, Spain
10:30 AM Central Daylight Time
TV: in the USA, Internationally
Injury Report: All players are expected to be ready.
Previous Matchups: None since the 2002 World Championship.
Probable Starters
Tai Webster PG Kyrie Irving
Kirk Penney SG Stephen Curry
Tom Abercrombie SF James Harden
Mika Vukona PF Kenneth Faried
Rob Loe C Anthony Davis

New Zealand heads into this game 0-2, desperately needing a victory if their hopes of getting to the tournament are going to be fulfilled. Obviously, Team USA isn't the ideal matchup if you want winning as the outcome, but we're here nonetheless.

Where does New Zealand excel? Perimeter shooting. Pretty much every player on the roster not named Mika Vukona is capable of nailing one if they're open. Guys like Corey Webster, Tai Webster, Thomas Abercrombie, and Kirk Penney are all capable of hitting it in coverage as well.

Obviously, if your strength is going to be perimeter shooting, it's likely that your weakness is going to be interior D. New Zealand only boasts three players over 6'6". Two of them, the 6'8" Casey Frank and Issac Fotu, can basically hold their own. But a strong pick and roll game tore them apart late in their first game against Turkey, and they let those aging Jack Michael Martinez score an efficient 12 in their second game. Furthermore, their only true center, Rob Loe, is probably more skilled at shooting threes than he is at protecting the rim.

When you get right down to it, New Zealand should be extremely easy to deal with. Team USA has the offensive tools inside to tear the Tall Blacks up, as evidenced by how Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried carried Team USA to victory against Turkey on Sunday. Furthermore, it's hard for me to see the Kiwis having offensive success. They don't turn the ball over a ton, but they really struggle to move the ball sometimes and will settle for bad shots. So it's easy to see them taking too many early threes and shooting themselves into oblivion. Furthermore, New Zealand's offense is of a Western Hemisphere style and utilizes more off-ball movement. Team USA has had an easier go of it against these types of teams traditionally, because they're just more used to dealing with it in the NBA.

What would it take for a NZ run? A heck of a performance from one of their shot creators. Kirk Penney has had success against Team USA before, though he was 12 years younger than he is now. Nevertheless, he remains very skilled at creating separation and keeping his balance. Corey Webster is an athletic scoring guard, and the brother of Tai Webster, a similar guard with more passing skills.Thomas Abercrombie is their last regular shot creating threat. He mostly excels at dunking and shooting fadeaways.

Because of the presence of so many skilled shooters, Team USA should be sure not to overplay too much and look for steals on defense. They should put more effort towards staying in front of their assignment, because the Tall Blacks will take any space that you give them. Offensively, Team USA needs to be aware that New Zealand is willing to pack the paint. It might be difficult to much going down there until Rob Loe exits the game. Still, there's no way that they'll keep the perimeter guarded, so it'll be bombs away all day.

I've probably talked about it enough on this blog, but the real tragedy surrounding this team is the absence of Steven Adams. He decided to forego national team duties in order to train with the Thunder. Had he played this summer, he would have been the lynchpin inside that they needed to secure their D. Furthermore, he would have been a really useful pick and roll scorer that would have opened up so many more shots for this team outside.And from a Thunder fan's perspective, it would have been nice to see him have the experience of getting regular touches.

Anyway, I'm not expecting this game to be as close as the Turkey game was. Unless it's just one of those nights. I am expecting a scoring battle between Curry and Penney at some point, though.

Prediction: Team USA 98, New Zealand 62

What do you think is going to happen today? Let us know in the comments!