GAME DAY PREVIEW: Rust-free Koreans a test worth sitting

GAME DAY PREVIEW: Rust-free Koreans a test worth sitting

It may have been a disappointing opening to the FIBA Basketball World Cup but there is no time for the Boomers to dwell on it, because another very different challenge awaits in a few hours.

By Paulo Kennedy - Guest Writer during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Never mind Korea are ranked 31 in the world, and never mind they lost 80-69 to Angola in the tournament opener, because they sabotaged their chances by not playing a game for the previous 30 days.

After shooting 6-of-34 – yes that’s right, 6-of-34 – in a painfully rusty first half the Koreans were a completely different outfit after intermission, and that’s the team the Boomers will face.

What Korea excel in is ball movement and lots of it.

In July they played an entertaining series against the Tall Blacks, and in one game in Seoul, where the hosts were on fire, the New Zealanders resembled the Washington Generals chasing their opponents around.

There were pin-downs, flares, hand-offs and just about every other exchange you can think of, and that was just on one offensive set.

Switching wherever possible was a successful ploy for Angola yesterday, and with no genuine height inside Korea found it difficult to exploit mismatches inside.

In the first half Angola also did a good job of muscling the Koreans out of position early so their exchanges didn’t lead to open shots.

But once the FIBA Asia bronze medallists starting hitting their sets with more speed and urgency after half-time, this became far more difficult as the defenders were forced to be reactive.

For two good reasons, the Boomers are likely to apply extended pressure with the intention of containing - rather than necessarily going for steals – something they haven't quite perfected yet this international season.

The first reason is because the speed of the Koreans can blow any press apart, so overcommitting too often will be playing right into their hands.

The second is the Korean offence takes time to develop. Their theory is work the defence off enough screens and one will eventually lead to a shot.

Make them start the offence with limited time on the shot clock and they are a far less dangerous proposition.

Once in the half-court they have many options, starting with pint-sized but cool point guard Yang Donggeun.

He is the brains of the operation, and a large part of Angola’s success was from making Yang pass over much bigger opponents after using the ball-screen.

Naturalised American Moon Taejong (aka Jarod Stevenson) is also a cunning operator. The Koreans use him curling off pin-downs where he can catch-and-shoot and go to the bucket, but also make outstanding reads to get his big men involved.

Centres Oh Sekeun and Kim Joo Sung are expert from mid-range, and they’ve got more pop than the Spice Girls after setting picks for their aggressive guards.

But the reality is the entire Korean team can shoot and most of them can also put the ball on the floor – guard Kim Sunhyung was superb yesterday - so a complete team defence is required to restrict their ball movement and dampen their enthusiasm.

So what about the things the Boomers will be working on?

Getting the ball inside to Aron Baynes is something coach Lemanis highlighted in the press conference, and no doubt the team will want to improve its ball movement before making the entry pass to give Baynesy more room to manoeuvre.

The Boomers also struggled to generate flow into their offence against Slovenia, with transition ball-screens a rarity.

Given the Koreans track ball-handlers the full 96 feet those screens will be a necessity tomorrow, and should help the Aussie get the ball moving before resorting to the high ball-screen late in the offence.

Finally, I’m sure coach Lemanis will be examining how to best use his bench to get a spark of intensity and also enable his starters to freshen up so they can turn the pressure on upon return.

Expect the rotations to come thick and fast against the relentless Koreans, allowing the Boomers to match their intensity, the big men to be actively sealing around the rim each offence, and the guards to close out hard on shooters to make them drive into the tall trees.

Take away the perimeter at the defensive end, and attack the paint at the offensive end, and the tournament’s first win awaits.

You can watch every second of the Boomers v Korea LIVE on ABC2 from 9:26pm AEST.