Basketball World Cup 2019: Tall Blacks eliminated after valiant display against Greece

The Tall Blacks have bowed out of contention at the Basketball World Cup, after a 103-97 defeat to Greece in Nanjing on Friday morning (NZ time). 

Requiring a victory over Greece to qualify for the last 16, the Tall Blacks fell short as reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo led his nation to victory with a team-high 24 points, along with 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals.

For New Zealand, Corey Webster shone once again with 31 points, four assists and three rebounds, while Thomas Abercrombie chipped in 18 points and six rebounds. 

Greece jumped out to a nine-point lead after the first quarter, and despite their best efforts New Zealand were unable to close the gap.

Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis Antetokounmpo. Photo credit: Getty

The defeat ends a run of four straight appearances by the Tall Blacks in the top-16 phase of the global tournament, and means Paul Henare's men will contest the minor classification playoffs for positions 17 to 32, where they'll face Japan and Turkey.

"We are extremely disappointed that our tournament is ending here, at least in terms of progressing to the next round," said coach Henare. 

 "That feeling is throughout the dressing room but for me is mixed with immense pride in the way we have played and shown that we belong at this level, contending with the best teams in the world.

"Greece is a quality team with some quality players, but I think we can be proud of our contribution to that game tonight and what we have brought to the tournament."

Greece raced out to a 28-19 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to Antetokounmpo's 11-point explosion. But the Tall Blacks refused to buckle as they trailed  51-44, at halftime.

In the final quarter, the Tall Blacks closed the five points, but Greece showed their class in the dying stages to secure victory and ensure a date against the US in the round of 16. 


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