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Boomers survive Webster storm
MELBOURNE (2015 FIBA Oceania Championship) - Australia have drawn first blood in a physical opener to the FIBA Oceania Championship, weathering a Corey Webster storm to prevail 71-59 in front of a 16,000 strong crowd at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena on Saturday.
A Matthew Dellavedova (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) burst in the second term put the Boomers in front for good, while the late play of Patty Mills (17 points, 4 assists) and David Andersen (17 points) helped the hosts secure an important 12-point edge.
"I thought we did a good job of just maintaining our intensity, our commitment to the work that's required at the defensive end and that's going to give us a chance to be successful in this series," Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis said.
"We only gave up six offensive rebounds, which is a key when you are competing against a team like that which just smashes the offensive glass."
"It was a great atmosphere, it was a great crowd, it was a great occasion for basketball in Oceania, so from that side of things it was a fun night and good to be a part of it," Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare said.
"For us it's half-time and we're down 12 at half-time - that was my message to the guys and that's how we have to look at the series.
"I know our guys are chomping at the bit to get home and close this series out."
The Tall Blacks produced a fierce Haka and they took that intensity into the first term, Kenny and Mika Vukona both scoring five quick points, and Webster putting the Kiwis 13-6 ahead with a triple.
Mills and Adam Gibson were inserted off the bench and nailed a pair of jumpers to close the gap, but New Zealand still held sway 16-12 at the first break.
A powerful Nathan Jawai jam put the Boomers in front early in the second, then Dellavedova lifted his country onto his back, landed a buzzer-beating triple, finished a tough runner and feeding Andrew Bogut for the alley-oop to set up a 34-26 half-time lead.
Dellavedova picked up where he left off after the break to extend the Boomers lead to nine, but Webster wouldn't let his team go quietly into the night.
The pint-sized shooting guard reeled off a string of tough pull-up jumpers despite plenty of attention from the Australian defense, willing his team back to within five at the last change.
The final quarter was a rugged affair with both teams upping the defensive ante.
Andersen continued to make important baskets, but three straight scores from Webster dragged the Tall Blacks within three.
Mills and Kenny then exchanged four straight triples as a grandstand finish threatened, but the Boomers did enough down the stretch to take a sizeable edge into Tuesday's Game 2 showdown in Wellington.