Penney drops for Dream Team
Do you think Michael Finley has heard of Kirk Penney now?
Questioned before the
start of the world basketball championships, the
"I'll be sure to introduce myself," said Finley, when warned of Penney's presence in the Tall Black team.
Well, the Dallas Mavericks guard got a real close look at Penney when the Kiwi drove past him for a layup during a spirited first-half showing at the Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Americans eventually
blew out to an easy 110-62 victory to remain unbeaten at the event. What, you
But as they won the
first quarter and stayed with their more illustrious foes until just after
halftime, the Tall Blacks showed a glimpse of the form they will need to
recapture for an entire 40 minutes if they are beat
If nothing else, Penney ensured Finley would have something to remember him by.
"He schooled you," Boston Celtic forward Paul Pierce taunted his teammate.
Without their only NBA player Sean Marks, the Kiwis were up against a team of 11 veteran pros and one future star, newly drafted pointed guard Jay Williams.
In the past, any clash with the so-called Dream Team would have held only novelty value for everyone involved. But that is not Tab Baldwin's way.
The Tall Black coach adamantly refused to concede the game, maintaining there was some hope whenever you step out on the floor. He instructed his players to control two specific areas of play - the Americans' frighteningly quick fast break and their strength on the offensive glass.
To this end, he planned to play a big lineup all night, installing Ed Book into the starting lineup and notifying little-used Rob Hickey he would see some court time.
Most would have thought this lofty ambition beyond the humble Kiwis, but they had their fans in raptures the entire first quarter as they opened up an early six-point lead and led 25-22 at the first break.
The Americans, with exception of Finley, shot as cold as the Tall Blacks were smoking ... especially from the free throw line where they went 2/6 in the first 10 minutes and 9/18 (50%) for the half.
Finley went off, hitting three treys in his 13 first-quarter points, and, frankly, kept his side in the game. Take him out of the equation, his teammates went a collective 3/15 FG (20%) for the quarter.
Meanwhile, New Zealand went 4/7 (57%) from beyond the arc with Penney, captain Pero Cameron, center Ed Book, and guard Phill Jones all connecting.
With Marks out, they still struggled for an inside presence, but the American bigs never really took advantage of that.
It was probably too much
to hope for the
With NBA rebounding champion (and defensive player of the year) Ben Wallace taking over the boards, the Kiwis were getting no second shots and barely holding their own under their own basket. By halftime they faced a massive 14-28 (0-11OR) rebounding deficit and 42-48 on the scoreboard.
"We tried every trick in
the book, which we felt we had to do," said
"But the water on the other side of the dam was deep and cold, and we didn't have enough fingers to keep it from bursting."
The Tall Blacks were still right there at 48-52, but then Pierce, as he has all tournament, owned the third quarter. While the Americans have often struggled to assert themselves at this event, Pierce has bailed them out time and again.
This time, he hit three treys to spark a 20-0 run ... and that was all she wrote.
The home team benefited
from some generous refereeing and
Sadly, the rest of the match turned into an exhibition as both side ran their benches. The Tall Black reserves simply could not contain their counterparts and the crowd got to see some spectacular plays from their heroes, including back-to-back alley oop dunks from Phoenix Suns forward Shawn Marion off passes from LA Clippers point guard Andre Miller.
After shooting 51.5% FG in the first half, the Tall Blacks could connect on only 6/32 (18.8%) in the second and 2/11 (18.2%) 3pt. Only Cameron, who hit two three-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Hickey, who led his team in rebounding with six, made any impact.
"It was a real honour to play against this American team," concluded Penney. "They just turned it up in that second half."
The Americans was very complimentary of their opponents. Head coach George Karl of the Milwaukee Bucks singled Cameron out as his favourite player.
"He's just an old-time
basketball player who knows how to play," he said. "We see Kirk play with
"This team is an example of how I feel about the whole tournament. They are well coached and in the first half, some of the stuff they ran on offence kind of froze us a little bit.
"But our size and talent wears teams down."
For the Dream Team, Finley and Pierce each scored 20 points, while Wallace ruled the glass with 13 rebounds.
Penney led his team with 16 points, while Cameron had 13 (3/6 3pt), five rebounds and six assists.
95 (Vassili Karassev 21)