Oceania powerhouses New Zealand and Australia started their respective 2017 FIBA Asia Cup campaigns with a bang after registering lopsided wins on the tournament’s opening day on Tuesday at Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon.
New Zealand began the competition with a convincing 70-49 victory over Kazakhstan in Group C action, while Australia thumped Japan, 84-68, in Group D play.
The two squads were head and shoulders above their foes despite missing their top players in the tournament. The Tall Blacks are playing without Isaac Fotu and explosive brothers Cory and Tai Webster, among others.
The biggest names in Australian basketball such as Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, Dante Exum and Ben Simmons, among others, are also not part of the Boomers’ campaign in the FIBA Asia Cup.
Obviously, their absence wasn’t a big problem as the two rivals previously isolated in the Oceania zone stamped their class in their maiden FIBA Asia appearance, making them the favorites to win the championship.
This year marks the first time that New Zealand and Australia compete in the Asia zone after FIBA reorganized its competition structure. The two will also participate in the Asian qualifiers for the World Cup and Olympics starting in November this year.