Day 3 Men: NZL 90 - SCG 87
Tall Blacks stun world champions
ATHENS, (Olympics) - New Zealand shook up international basketball by reaching the semi-finals of the World Championships and now they've done it again by stunning Serbia & Montenegro at the Olympics.
The Tall Blacks, reeling after successive losses to Italy and China, won 90-87 on Thursday morning to keep their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals alive.
The result sends shockwaves from Athens to Belgrade because Serbia & Montenegro, who beat the Kiwis in the semi--finals at Indianapolis two years ago before prevailing over Argentina in the title game of the World Championships, have now lost twice in Greece.
They led against the minnows from Oceania by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter.
With 5:30 remaining, Zeljko Obradovic's men held a 79-66 advantage after a Milos Vujanic three-pointer. The wheels started to come off shortly after.
Vujanic fouled Mark Dickel and the Kiwi point guard made one of two free throws.
Sean Marks then split two at the line and former Wisconsin star Kirk Penney scored in the lane to make it 79-70 with 4:41 remaining.
Penney then made a play at the other end, stealing the ball from Vujanic and passing ahead to Dickel in transition to cut the deficit even further. Obradovic called a time-out and made two replacements, bringing in veteran Dejan Tomasevic for Djuro Ostojic and Vladimir Radmanovic for Petar Popovic.
New Zealand's physical defence was causing the world champions problems, though, and Marks came up with another steal, Vujanic again the culprit.
Marks passed ahead to Dickel and he scored on the fastbreak, leaving the Tall Blacks behind at 79-74 with 3:55 left.
A missed Vujanic three-point attempt then triggered another New Zealand fastbreak, and Penney struck from behind the arc to cut the Serbo-Montenegrin advantage to 79-77 with 2:56 left.
Captain Dejan Bodiroga stopped the rot with a basket down low.
Penney answered with a basket close in to make it 81-79, and then the Kiwis pulled level at 81-81 when Dickel scored.
Bodiroga is usually the man for the big occasion, so it wasn't surprising when he buried a three for an 84-81 advantage with 1:25 remaining, but 6ft 7in Pero Cameron, New Zealand's captain, replied with a three to tie the game again with 1:07 on the clock.
Skipper Bologna guard Vujanic, who has already been drafted in the NBA, struck from three-point range with 41 seconds left to put his side back in front at 87-84, with New Zealand coach Tab Baldwin then electing to call time-out.
He decided to go for the high percentage shot and Dillon Boucher made one in the lane after a feed by Dickel to leave Serbia & Montenegro with an 87-86 lead with just 20 seconds left.
As New Zealand pressed and tried to force a turnover, Tomasevic inbounded the ball in the direction of Vujanic who was being closely guarded by Dickel.
The referee blew his whistle and called an offensive foul on Vujanic, and Obradovic jumped off his bench to argue.
Video replays suggested that Vujanic had indeed been fouled.
New Zealand immediately went to their NBA centre Marks and he soared high for a ferocious two-handed slam dunk to send the Hellinikon Indoor Arena into raptures and give the Kiwis an 88-87 lead.
Most of the neutrals in the crowd were supporting the underdogs.
Obradovic's men had 19 seconds left.
Phill Jones fouled Igor Rakocevic after two seconds, and Baldwin took his shooting guard out and replaced him with Paul Henare. Eleven seconds later and Vujanic missed a three.
Tomasevic fouled Dickel with three seconds left and he made both shots from the line for a 90-87 advantage.
Serbia & Montenegro still had a chance. They quickly got the all up the court to Bodiroga who, surrounded by three defenders, launched a three-point shot but it was short and hit the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Both teams now have a win and two defeats, but are still in contention for a place in the last eight.
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens
Phillip JONES, Guard (NZL):
On the way to the next phase:
"We made the big step to the quarterfinals. Now, we have to win one more game. It is amazing".
On the game:
"We took our revenge for our loss to Serbia/Montenegro at the World Championships in Indianapolis. They took away from the medal."
Sean MARKS, Centre (NZL):
On the key of the game:
"I think that in the last quarter we made it in both offence and defense. We made team effort. The feeling of winning in the last second is great."
Dillon BOUCHER, Forward (NZL):
On the game:
"We did it, we did it!The key was our defense. We are very close to the quarterfinals. We took a kind of revenge for our loss in Indianapolis. We have never underestimate them, they are stiil the World Champions."
Press conference quotes:
Dillon BOUCHER, Guard (NZL)
"We finally got a win on the board, and even against the World Champions. Serbia/Montenegro played great, but we showed our heart when it mattered to turn the game around. We came here to win games, and it was disappointing for us not to get a win in the first two games despite our good performance. Maybe our loss to Serbia/Montenegro in the World Championships, where their defense had us really on the ropes, was some kind of motivation for us."
Tab BALDWIN, Head Coach (NZL)
On the game:
"It was an exciting game, and obviously a great result for us. We needed it desperately. Serbia/Montenegro shot 55% from the field and forced us to commit many turnovers, converting a lot on the fast break with their up-tempo game. But we shifted our defense to zone and this caught them by surprise; they missed some big shots late in the game. Our offense was the way I want it to be. However, we have to get statistically better if we want to go further. Serbia/Montenegro is a very good but young team, whereas the teams who play us in the next two games won't give us nothing. I would say the next two games are the games of our lives."
On his team's game allegedly being too physical:
"No question our game is physical. Basketball is a physical game. But European teams tend to intimidate their opponents, and this team is not going to get intimidated by anybody. The 37 three-point shots we took against China were a tactical flaw, so in this game we decided to get more in the lane and maybe get some more free throws. Our guys made some great plays around the rim when they had to make them."
On Coach OBRADOVIC's comments on refereeing:
"We all are in an adversory relationship with referees; not only us coaches, but also players, managers, and fans. We can't help but seeing the game in a biased way. This only makes the referee's role even more difficult. In these Olympic Games I am not satisfied from the level of officiating, but then again, I'm not satisfied from the level of Basketball played either. We all want better standards in refereeing, playing, and also coaching. We'd rather work harder to improve than go at referees all the time."
Dejan BODIROGA, Guard, team captain (SCG)
On the game:
"There were two games today instead of one. In the first one, during the first 35 minutes, we controlled the game and got up to 11 points up (actually the biggest margin for SCG was 15 points). Then we allowed New Zealand to make two 3-pointers and get back in the game. I have to give credit to them, as they never gave up and they believed in themselves."
On the offensive call on Milos VUJANIC in the closing seconds:
"It was a strange call. I don't like to judge referees, but I saw it both live in the game and afterwards, and I still believe it was strange."
On "What happened to the World Champions":
"Nothing happened, we just lost two games, one in the last second and the other because of our own mistakes and some strange referee decisions. We will fight to the end, starting with next game."
Zelimir OBRADOVIC, Head Coach (SCG)
On the game:
"Congratulations to New Zealand, they fought to the last second. We had told that to our players before the game. We had complete control for 35 minutes without problems, but unfortunately some of my players responded to provocations, despite the fact that we had advised them not to. The referees' decision on the foul against VUJANIC was unbelievable. It was a direct gift to our opponents to win the game, and I think people that watch the referees should take it into account. I don't know if there are new rules stating that a player should be called for offensive foul when he is attacked away from the ball. And there were some strange decisions in the game against Italy as well."
On the comments by Sean MARKS (NZL) that NZL took his substitution of the entire lineup as a sign of disrespect:
"If he took it like this, it's his problem. We play games every two days here, and if I used the same players all the time they would faint after five days. I just wanted to refresh my team. And I finished the game with my starters."
Source: Athens News Service