FIBA World Cup: New Zealand Edge Finland In 67-65 Victory
Thomas Abercrombie moves past his defender (via FIBA.com)

With both teams coming into the game at 1-3, this was a must win to keep any hopes of advancing to the knockout stages. In a tight Group C, the loser of this match was guarenteed to be eliminated while the winner remained alive, relying on other results in order to advance to the second round.

The Kiwi's once again started the match strong, opening up an early first quarter lead behind the commanding presence of big man Issac Fotu, who finished the contest with a game-high 18 off an efficient 6-8 shooting to go with 8 rebounds. After a tight beginning, New Zealand finished the quarter off strong to lead 18-12 at the end of the first period. 

As the second quarter began, the game opened up, and the Tall Blacks started to take control. Both teams found their offensive rhythm and piled on many points. Despite Finland's offensive improvement in the second quarter, largely due to a team-high 17 points from Gerald Lee, they were still unable to stop the Kiwi's who put up 26 points for the quarter. The physical Tall Blacks were aggressive on the boards once again, outrebounding their opponent 38-28 and were able to get exta possession after possession thanks to 12 offensive rebounds. As the half time siren rang, New Zealand had extended its lead and found itself ahead 44-32.

The match began to tighten up as the second half began as both teams looked to win the game with their defence. Only 13 points apiece were scored in the third quarter largely due to numerous turnovers by the Tall Blacks and Finland's poor shot selection. Entering the fourth frame, New Zealand remained firmly in control, ahead 57-45.

Giving up leads has been the story of the tournament for the Kiwi's, and it happened once again as Finland went on a huge fourth quarter run to create an intense game down the stretch. With so much on the line, both teams were playing with an intensity unseen so far in the competition. As Finland made their run, they sunk big shot after big shot and forced New Zealand into playing some inefficient and careless offence. With 1:47 to go and the Tall Blacks up 6, the Fins went to their go-to-scorer, and Gerald Lee hit a 3 pointer from the top of the key to make it a one possession game. With 4.7 seconds to go and Finland down 65-67, they once again went to Lee to create some magic. However, he could not get a shot off and airballed a fall-away jumper from 16 feet out. The Finland bench protested for a foul on the play but did not receive the call they were looking for. 

After starting 0-3, New Zealand won their final two games and advance to the knockout stages where they look to make their mark on the tournament. It was dissappointment for Finland as they finished the tournament 1-4, being just two points away from sealing a spot in the knockout stages. 

New Zealand will play Lithuania in the knockout stages on September 7.

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