Day 2 of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Bilbao began with a clash of Day 1 losers. Emmet Ryan reports from what turned out to be a shootout between Francisco Garcia and Thomas Abercrombie.
The Dominican Republic promised to threaten New Zealand with with their speed and delivered by forcing the pace where possible. Having been the smaller outfit on Saturday, the Kiwis were forced to change to a more physically imposing game in this match-up but they still found room to showcase the finer points of their game. In the end however Francisco Garcia’s 31 points led the Dominicans to a crucial victory.
Thomas Abercrombie gave New Zealand the perfect start as he racked up 13 of their 16 points the first 10 minutes on 5 of 7 shooting. Dominican Republic however were able to keep up with the pace early on the back of a more balanced offence. Crucially, second chance opportunities broke the DR’s way more and that allowed them to just two points down before entering the second frame. That was when Francisco Garcia stepped up in style, scoring 11 points and going 5 of 5 in the quarter . With Jack Martinez his primary source of support, Dominican Republic pushed ahead into a 34-27 lead at the half.
The second half began with both sides treading water. Garcia and Abercrombie traded threes early but offenisvely the Tall Blacks were a touch predictable. Mika Vukona, who was Abercrombie main help on the scoreboard, was forced to sit with foul trouble but the Dominicans failed to make his absence count. Abercrombie carried the load for the Kiwis but Kirk Penney stepped up but they couldn’t quite turn this into a one possession game. Even their big plays didn’t break their way. A super athletic block by Rob Loe was for nought as the Dominicans recovered and Garcia made another three. Instead it was the more mundane but effective defence that did the job for the Tall Blacks with the Dominicans repeatedly getting in trouble on the shot clock. That D paid off and Dominican Republic led by the minimum, 51-50, going into the final frame.
Corey Webster made his first two buckets of the game to bring New Zealand level but fatigue was beginning to set in and the offence was in need of a wake-up call. An unsportsmanlike foul call on Eloy Vargas could have been the break they needed but a turnover on the subsequent possession, leading to a fast break bucket Victor Liz, was indicative of where the sides were at this stage. The Kiwis, plucky but out of gas were facing a group of Dominican players happy to keep running at them. Garcia hit his fifth three of the day to push the lead to 8 midway through the frame. Jack Martinez threw a no-look pass to Garcia for a lay-up and the Dominicans were rolling to their first win of the tournament.
For the Kiwis it’s a long road back into contention, with the USA to come on Tuesday, New Zealand realistically have to beat both Finland and Ukraine to stay alive. Dominican Republic can rest well on their day off knowing that a win over Finland on Tuesday will almost certainly book their spot in the last 16.