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NBL All-Australians come up short against Chinese behemoth
It was hoped a two day break, after the game 1 loss Wednesday in Beijing, would allow Rob Beveridge and the NBL All-Australian team sufficient time to properly scout the Chinese Men's National team, make the necessary adjustments and tie up the series at Jilin Stadium - Northeast of China for game 2.
Bad weather meant a seven-hour train ride from Beijing to Jilin, would take away any chance to train in between games, yet despite the rough ride, early in game 2 it appeared a slightly more acclimated and cohesive All-Australian team was capable of evening the series.
Able to control the tempo for most of the game, the All-Australian stars couldn't keep pace with a hot shooting Chinese team in the 4th-quarter, eventually going down 89-75.
Daniel Kickert, was again the standout for the NBL All-Australian team, scoring a game high 20 points to go with four rebounds. David Barlow, was solid throughout and contributed 12 points, four rebounds and four steals. Lucas Walker showed why he will be a key addition for the Perth Wildcats with a yeoman like seven points and six rebounds in limited minutes. Nick Kay was incredible early before tapering off and finishing with seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
Reigning NBL MVP , Jerome Randle, looked sluggish again and found the full-court pressure defence of two time Olympian Guo Ailun extremely limiting. Randle was off target all night, finishing with just 10 points and four assists.
In a humid and often times slippery game, Rob Beveridge believes fatigue got to his charges in the end.
"We had some breakdowns, but overall I was happy with how we played the game. We are a very good shooting team and we shot the ball well in the first half but then a little bit of fatigue may have taken over. But I was happy with our shot selection and the fight that we showed. We didn't give in."
The quick thinking, in-game adjustments of Chinese National Coach, Du Feng, coupled with the inclusions of lighting quick guard Guo Ailun and the 7-1 behemoth Han Dejun, clearly rattled the visitors, easily outscoring the CPA All-Australian team 30-14 in the final quarter.
Guo rollicked his way to a team high 18 points and three assists, whilst Han did the heavy lifting down low for 11 points, eight rebounds and a handy four assists.
Ren Junfei scored 13 points, while game 1 hero, Wu Qian, was kept in check by the change in defensive strategy and held to just 10.
When David Barlow buried a three with 4:56 left on the clock, the Chinese lead was just 71-68. The game was certainly there for the taking but the NBL stars ceased up, went cold and the Chinese took advantage, running away with a series clinching victory.
A sluggish first quarter from both teams, saw the All-Australian team trailing 18-17, despite shooting just 1-8 from deep. A Jesse Wagstaff no-look feed for an open Lucas Walker dunk early in the second term, seemingly kick-started an All-Australian comeback.
A late corner three from Barlow, after a rapid fire spurt of back-to-back-to-back three's from Daniel Kickert, gave the Australians a 40-33 edge at the half and all signs pointed to a team that had finally found it's groove.
Du Feng had other ideas and China were a different team offensively after the main break. Using the lightning-quick speed of Guo, Team China looked to catch the All-Australian team napping at the rim for easy lay-ups. It worked time and again.
The Australian zone that had stifled the Chinese early, began to play into their hands, as Guo was able to find the crease and hit shooters Wu Qian and Li Gen for open three's.
Defensively, Du Feng deployed a hard trap on a surprisingly lacklustre Jerome Randle, pushing him to the sidelines and taking the ball out of his hands. This simple adjustment was effective in taking away the bread and butter, middle pick and roll that the Australians had used to pick apart the Chinese team in the first half.
With the Australian offence now stagnant, China used two 8-0 runs in the third and fourth quarters to run out comfortable 14 point winners.
The series loss has left Rob Beveridge with plenty to think about in the next few days but there were plenty of positives.
"We played a very, very good game tonight. We know that China is a very good team and they were probably too good for us in the end. But I felt that we controlled the game for most of it" Beveridge said.
The action now shifts to game Game 3 in Dongguan, Sunday night at 9.30pm AEST on Fox Sports and NBL TV
Game 1 – Beijing China 68-66 NBL All-Australian Team
Game 2 – Jilin China 89-75 NBL All Australian Team
Game 3 – Dongguan 9:30pm AEST Fox Sports & NBL TV