#FIBAOQT Semis Preview: CANADA vs NEW ZEALAND

(Image from FIBA)
This match-up will determine the first team that will enter the Final of the Manila OQT. Canada swept its Group A assignments by getting past TUR and surviving SEN, and now it will have to beat a gritty NZL quintet. The Tall Blacks were impressive against hosts PHL and seemed to have their game against FRA under control till the French caught fire in the fourth quarter. There is no room for error against Canada, though, so the Kiwis will need to be nothing short of their best.

Keys to win:
- CAN has struggled from 3-pt range a bit, and that could potentially be the red flag in this game, especially since NZL has used that 3pt shot as a big weapon. The Canucks have made only 25% of their threes, and they’ll need to check that against a team as relentless as NZL. 
- One thing that the Tall Blacks need to check on their end is turning the ball over. NZL averages around 14.5 turnovers, which is three more than CAN. If the Canadians tighten up their defense, the chances of NZL pulling off an upset will be very low.
- One reason that NZL has been able to play really well has been offensive rebounding. They average nearly 16 off rebs a game, and if they continue to do that, it’ll spell trouble for for CAN. CAN’s bigs like Tristan Thompson, Melvin Ejim, and Anthony Bennett have to make sure they shore up the frontline else CAN allow too many second chance points.


Key Players:
CAN: 
Cory Joseph - CAN’s guard play has been awesome so far, and Joseph is its backbone. He’ll need to be at his best here vs NZL. Ave: 17.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.5apg.

Melvin Ejim - Ejim has been solid for CAN. He has been a leading player for their supporting cast, and if he can put up good numbers again, CAN should be in good shape.

Tristan Thompson - Rebounding will be huge in this game, and for CAN that means Thompson needs to make a big impact. He has had trouble making shots, but as long as he can grab rebounds, he should do fine.

NZL:
Tai Webster - Tai has by far been NZL’s best player. He has been relentless in attacking the basket and has shown steely nerves. He’ll have his hands full against Joseph, but if he can step up anew, NZL has a shot.

Isaac Fotu - Fotu has been NZL’s best frontcourt player, hitting threes and grabbing boards. If he can continue to be effective on the glass, he’ll give Thompson a run for his money.

Corey Webster - Webster leads this team in scoring, but his FG% hasn’t really been good. He’ll need to play more efficiently for NZL to complete an upset against the Canadians.


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