HIROSHIMA (FIBA World Chamionship
) - Pero Cameron scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half as New Zealand came back from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to beat Japan 60-57 in Group B of the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Cameron hit four three-pointers in the final period, while his last one tied the game at 57-57. And Kirk Penney hit a three-pointer with 31.2 seconds left to give the Tall Blacks the lead after trailing 18 points at half-time.
New Zealand coach Tab Baldwin praised the Japanese and said their performance was a "brave effort".
"My heart goes out to them. The only thing that saved us is that we were just as brave," he said. "Our defense held the line long enough for some of our guys to hit some three-pointers and make it back into the game."
Zeljko Pavlicevic said his Japanese team was crushed, adding: "The team is destroyed mentally. Before hand, a (loss) of 60-57 against New Zealand would have been okay. But inside us, we are really destroyed."
Japan were ahead 14-11 when they really started getting into their transition game with Tomoo Amino and Ryota Sakarai combining for all 10 points in a 10-0 run to make it 26-11.
Japan were ahead 26-13 after the first 10 minutes.
Amino hit a three-pointer and Joji Takeuchi scored on a drive to up the advantage to 31-13 with 8:22 left in the second - the hosts' biggest lead of the game. And Zeljko Pavlicevic's team retained that lead until half-time 38-20.
New Zealand coach Tab Baldwin was happy to have the first-half over with, as the Tall Blacks shot a dismal 19 per cent from the field, including 0-for-14 on three-pointers.
New Zealand came out of the break much more aggressive in the paint, hammering the ball down low and crashing the boards. And their shooters also finally found their mark. The Tall Blacks opened the quarter on a 16-3 run - with Cameron scoring nine points - to close within 41-36 with 3:28 left in the third.
But Takehiko Orimo's three-pointer started a 7-0 run to close the period and give Japan a 48-36 edge going into the fourth. New Zealand held the Japanese to just two field goals in the third period.
Orimo upped that advantage to 50-36, but Craig Bradshaw hit a three-pointer and Cameron buried three straight from downtown to close within 52-48. After a Sakarai free Kirk Penney made three free throws to make it 53-51.
Orimo made two free throws to make it 57-54 before Cameron struck again.
After that Orimo missed a three-pointer but Japan grabbed the offensive rebound only to see Joji Takeuchi turn the ball over on a travel. After Dickel's big three-pointer, Joji Takeuchi missed a desparation three-pointer with the shot clock running down to seal the comeback.
Japan and New Zealand are both 1-3 in the group and both have chances to advance as well as win-less Panama. If New Zealand beat Panama on Thursday, they're through.
If Panama win by more than 32 points and Japan lose to Spain, the Central Americans are through. Otherwise the Japanese would be through, even if they lose to Spain. By David Hein