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Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, Day 2: New Zealand's Corey and Tai Webster form dynamic duo in tense victory over the Philippines

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Also: Jokic scores 17 in Serbian victory, and Canada struggles with perimeter shooting.

Shadow jumper!
Shadow jumper!
Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

Games I watched

Canada shoots 12% from three as they survive scare from Ndour's scrappy Senegal

I'd never seen Senegal play before this game, but their unique style will stick out to me for a long time. Senegal is a run and gun team that will take the first open shot they can get. Senegal relentlessly attacks the hoop due to a lack of shooting, and are great shotblockers defensively. If I could put it into one word, I'd definitely say, "power". Senegal is a power team. Senegal had a big rebounding advantage too, due to superior size.

Canada continues to be the same stream of pick and rolls, though players like Anthony Bennett and Tyler Ennis are getting individual possessions. Ennis in particular was good at using his quickness to get to the rim. Senegal was able to have an extremely lucky start, shooting 4 of 9 from the three point line. Ndour hit two threes, and that's not normally his forte. This gave Senegal the advantage early. Senegal was able to stay in the game from that point on through ferocious defense and rapid passing. But the second quarter brought on the inevitable offensive drought for Senegal, as the Canadians committed to a strict man to man. Senegal didn't score for 4 minutes straight, allowing the Canadians to take a 5 point halftime lead.

At the half, Canada was shooting 49%, while Senegal was shooting 33%. And Senegal had 9 turnovers to Canada's three. Yet Senegal is only down by 5. It's only because Senegal jacked up a ton of threes, got lucky at the line, and had a slight rebounding advantage.

The third quarter didn't really see Canada pull away. It was all about defense and effort, as Senegal got back on every single possession and rebounded well. I don't know if there was a single player who scored more than twice in this quarter, aside from maybe Ejim. Just lots of long possessions, bad shots, and isolation ball when the pick and roll was destroyed. Neither team had any heat from the perimeter, and both teams locked down the paint. By the end of the third, Canada was still up by only 5.

The fourth quarter saw Senegal go back to the three point shot, rather successfully. Ndour and Ndoye, two big men, hit a couple of threes that were really impactful given the slow pace of the game. Clevin Hannah, as guard, also hit a three as well as a mid-range jumper. On Canada's end, Brady Heslip, their only long range shooter, was cold at 0-5. This meant Canada had to trapeze through the tough Senegal interior defense. And Canada only got a bucket or so out of Ejim, Ennis, and Joseph.

About halfway through the fourth quarter, with the game still close, the Filipino fans started filing in. The Phillippines were going to play in the next game. The Filipino fans knew that Senegal were huge underdogs, so they cheered loudly in the Senegalese' favor. But no amount of cheering could get Senegal the last bit of offensive production they needed. Hannah got an open three with 22 seconds to go that would have tied the game. No dice. Senegal played the foul game, and a missed Cory Joseph free throw gave Senegal one last chance to win. But with only 3 seconds left, Hannah couldn't get off the shot he needed to send it to OT.

Slammin' Notes

  • Steve Nash was on the jumbotron, and got a huge cheer from the fans.
  • Coach Jay Triano was a mastermind of the little stuff. Triano instructed his team to guard the three rather than the two on Senegal's next to last possession. It made Senegal waste a lot of time, and nearly sealed the game were it not for the missed Cory Joseph FT. Triano also called up a late play to get Tyler Ennis to score on the baseline out of a timeout that worked flawlessly. Lastly, Triano, clearly used to the NBA timeout length, took too long during the last two timeouts. Both times, the ref literally stepped in and asked Triano to end it. Triano would just ignore the ref, and just kept talking for another minute. It was totally hilarious.
  • With the win, Canada is assured a position in the semi-finals, and a high seed. Senegal will battle Turkey for the final group spot tomorrow.

Tai and Corey Webster score in bunches, help New Zealand knock out the Philippines

This was New Zealand's first game, and they came out as looking reliable, if a bit lacking in offensive talent. Individually, there's no way New Zealand could match up with Andray Blatche. But New Zealand used a combination of bigs against Blatche to play him physically and keep him away from the rim. New Zealand would also send a double-team any time Blatche put the ball on the floor, which was really effective. By the end of the first half, Blatche had only scored 4 points and was largely a non-factor.

But New Zealand couldn't do much to stop the flashy scoring of the Filipino guards. Jeff Chan hit three threes during the first quarter, and Jayson Castro had 11 points in the first half. Chan can catch and shoot and shoot off the dribble, while Castro heavily favors shooting off the dribble.

New Zealand's biggest lead during the first half was 9, and they went to the half up 7. Generally, New Zealand was more effective at getting out on the break, as well as getting to the basket. The Webster brothers combined for 21 points at the half, and worked off of each other really well. Both have the speed to get to the rim, as well as the range to light it up from deep. Corey Webster also had a surprisingly high 6 first half rebounds.

Throughout the third, New Zealand looked like they were going to pull away at any point. The Kiwi lead got as high as 13, and reached 12 multiple times. Tai Webster was particularly impressive at continuing to get to the rim, and Corey had at least a basket as well. Issac Fotu, who was left mostly unguarded on the perimeter, nailed a couple of threes. But the Philippines found ways to produce and keep themselves in it. Rosario, the backup center, unexpectedly grabbed 6 points with a back to the basket game. Blatche got back into form, getting to the line on a couple of occasions and driving inside. 9 points in the third from Blatche was enough to help keep the Philippines within 7 heading into the fourth.

The fourth quarter saw the Philippines make some good challenges. The Philippines cut the deficit to 2 early in the fourth, and had New Zealand within 5 with 4:45 to go. But ultimately, the game was out of hand by the final minute. New Zealand proved themselves the better passing team, triggering the break well off of rebounds and steals. Corey Webster had a couple of mid-range jumpers as well as a drive to the rim, while Tai scored once in transition. Tom Abercrombie cashed a couple of jumpers, once the Filipino defense focused on the Websters. Even Issac Fotu got into the action, scoring a critical backdown on De Ocampo to put New Zealand up 7. De Ocampo was a curious case, coming in during the fourth quarter to miss a three and get burned on defense. De Ocampo didn't play yesterday, or earlier in the game.

Blatche was particularly impressive during the fourth quarter. Two made threes, a backdown of Loe to score, a drawn foul to score at the line, and even a forced jump ball on defense. Chan grabbed another three as well. The Philippines can certainly score with the best of them, but they aren't great passers. Furthermore, the Filipino defense doesn't have a very lethal bite to it.

Slammin' Notes

  • Tab Baldwin is a citizen of New Zealand and coached them for many years. Now, he's the Filipino coach.
  • The Manila crowd was incredible. Lots of screaming during big plays and loud drums from the crowd. I really enjoy the techno/dance music that plays during the game. More atmospheric than all of the pop music that plays at the majority of world arenas. (I also really enjoy the genre, heh.) There was even some orchestral music to mix it up occasionally, and I found it really....soothing? Hard to describe. I'm sure Pau Gasol would be all over this idea.
  • If anything kills this New Zealand team (other than their inherent lack of height), it's going to be their inability to score inside during half-court sets. The Kiwis settle into jumpers too easily.
  • Blatche had 30 on the night, but he hit a three during garbage time.
  • Both Websters were over 20. I love seeing these guys work in a tandem. Tai also got 11 rebounds for a double double.
  • The New Zealand ambassador to the Philippines was at the basketball game, and it was his first time seeing live basketball.
  • With this loss, the Philippines are eliminated. New Zealand will play for seeding in the Semi-Finals tomorrow.

Bogdanovic 4 of 5 from three, Jokic 17 points in Serbian thrashing of Angola

The game started out with some miraculous Angolan shooting, as the team went 4 of 9 from three. Angola had four different players make a three in the first quarter. But Serbia was hot too, going 3 of 5 from three in the first quarter. Bogdanovic had two of those makes. Also helpful for Serbia was a late 8 point burst by Jokic, which gave them a 7 point lead at the end of the quarter. Also also helpful for Serbia was the 6 point advantage they had in points off turnovers during the first quarter. Basically, Serbia was able to bruise their way inside with their heavy bigs, like Bircevic and Raduljica. But if Angola packed the paint, that left range for the Serbian shooters, like Bogdanovic and Markovic.

Angola won rebounds in the first quarter, but not much else. In the second quarter, Angola held steady. Angola got Serbia over the foul limit with 2:48 left on the clock, which got them a couple of trips to the line on non-shooting fouls. Angola also got a big lift from Ambrosio in the second. Ambrosio hit a hook, a fade, a three, and a tap shot rebound. Really skilled, impressive looking shots. Santos hit a deep off the dribble three as well.

On the other end, Miroslav Raduljica finished the first half with four turnovers. One of his passes was out of bounds, straight up to nobody. But the Serbians still kept a 9 point lead at the half, and looked as if they were just about ready to pull away. Surely Angola wouldn't keep hitting all of these inefficient shots.

And Angola surely didn't keep hitting those shots. Angola's inside game disappeared, and they had to take a ton of hard shots from the perimeter. This offensive stagnation opened things up for Serbia on the perimeter. Teodosic grabbed a couple of outside shots, and Markovic kicked in a three. Even Raduljica got into form, scoring more than a few baskets with his power inside. Angola had a couple of miracle threes, the most impressive of which was from Santos. By the end of the third, Angola was buried under a 18 point deficit.

Slammin' Note

  • Ambrosio kisses the ball before he shoots free throws. Best routine ever!

Greece trounces Mexico, Thanasis seals the game with late charge

I switched in to the fourth quarter of this game after Serbia-Angola got out of hand. Mexico was down 12, but made an immediate run to try to get back in the game. Gutierrez hit a layup, and Mendez hit a mid-range shot off a screen. But the score wouldn't get any closer than that. Borousis and Thanasis had a couple of baskets close to the hoop, extending the lead back to 12. A corner Cruz 3 cut it to 9, and a later stepback Cruz three cut it to 10. But Mexico was reduced to difficult shots, but Thanasis just went off from that point on. I saw Thanasis score off an offensive board, draw a foul on a backdown, and put in an alley-oop. Athleticism does a lot for you. By about 4 or 5 minutes to go, the game was virtually over.

Slammin' Notes

  • Greek fans had a pretty great chant going. I have no idea what the words were. But it was one of those "we're kicking your butt" chants that just go on and on.
  • Meanwhile, the Mexican Coach, Valdeolmillos, got a technical for arguing.
  • And yeah, that chant kept going on and on after the game. Like, 10 minutes after the game. That's dedication!

Czech Republic-Japan

Japan couldn't get any easy baskets inside, and clanked some open mid-range jumpers. Meanwhile, rapid passing was able to get the Czechs out in transition. Japan went with a zone defense at times, allowing the Czechs a couple of open outside shots. The Czechs got a 9-2 early lead, but Japan quickly caught pace. A couple of Tsuji threes fueled Japan's charge. But great passing for a couple of Palyza threes and easy twos gave the Czechs a 9 point lead heading into the second. They look like the superior team, simply because it's easier for them to draw the defense out. And the Czechs won the first quarter rebounding battle 17 to 6.

I didn't get to catch the rest of the game, but the Czechs won 87-71. Satoranszky was 4-6 from three!

Slammin' Notes

  • Both teams had small cheering sections of about 100 fans who both tried to out-chant each other. I thought it was really awesome and cute at the same time.
  • On average, the Czech roster has three inches over the Japanese roster.

Games I didn't watch

Croatia 72, Tunisia 52

Bogdanovic went for 25, with 6-10 from the floor and 12/13 from the line. Saric was a less impressive 11. Bogdanovic is more developed at this point, but you can't help feeling that Saric should have a bigger offensive role. But maybe I'm just underestimating Bogdanovic. Or reading too much into a box score!

Any thought's on tonight's contests? Drop a comment and let us know!