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Lithuania too good for flat Tall Blacks

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/06/2016

The Tall Blacks have fallen flat in their Atlas Challenge semi-final in China, outplayed 80-65 by a fired-up Lithuania.

After marching through group play unbeaten, showing great hustle on defence and sharing the load offensively, the 21st-ranked New Zealanders were always behind against world No.3 Lithuania.

The Tall Blacks lost the rebound count 35-31 and shot poorly from the three with a 24 per cent success rate.

Defensively, they struggled to disrupt the Lithuanian offence, in particular Edgaras Zelionis, who ended with a game high 25.

Coach Paul Henare was left disappointed with an effort which never really got going.

"I definitely think that was a reality check in terms of where we have been playing," he said afterwards.

"We came up against a quality, well-drilled side tonight and didn't respond to the challenge well."

After trailing 23-15 at the first break, the Tall Blacks reduced that arrears to 37-32 and briefly drew level late in the third quarter but couldn't kick on.

The New Zealanders now play off for third and fourth against either China or Iran, with Henare keen to see how his team respond to their semi-final defeat.

"Regardless of who we play, this is about us and how we bounce back from today's disappointment."

After their play-off match, the Tall Blacks travel to Latvia for a 10-day training camp before heading to the Philippines for the Olympic qualifying touranment in Manila starting on July 5.

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