New Zealand have had a less-than-ideal start to their 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign. The inability to close out their opening game against Turkey cost them after an otherwise good performance, while a tired-looking team never found their rhythm the next day against the Dominican Republic.
Now New Zealand will battle to make the top 16, something that was considered to be the lowest acceptable finish for the team prior to the tournament. Games against Ukraine and Finland are both winnable, although even if both are won, their fate will still depend on other results.
In their next game though, they face a formidable USA team. Even the most optimistic New Zealand supporter would give their team little chance of winning this game. While it is undoubtedly novel to see the New Zealanders playing against NBA superstars, the reality is that they will be largely out of their depth.
This is made even harder considering New Zealand are without many first-choice players due to either injury or unavailability. For a country as small as New Zealand, where the best athletes play rugby, cricket and rugby league, to be without players such as Steven Adams, Alex Pledger, Reuben Te Rangi and Mark Dickel is a huge handicap.
That said, New Zealand will fight hard and there may be a few players who can make life difficult for their superstar opponents. Here are a few to keep an eye on.