26/03/2019
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Lee Jung-Hyun, Rah Gun-A claim MVP awards in KBL while Muharraq rise as Bahrain champions

ASIA - It’s been a busy week as always in the leagues across Asia. As the intensity reaches another level, teams and players have now started activating their own “Playoff Modes” heading into the post-season. Who will come out on top? Which teams will succeed and which teams will miss out? Let’s check in with the action around Asian leagues this week!

Information updated as of March 24, 2019.

Rise of Muharraq

The Zain Bahraini Premier League concluded with Muharraq completing a 3-game sweep over Al-Riffa in the Finals. It eventually took an overtime session to settle the score, but the newly crowned champions of Bahrain took the clinching victory 100-96.

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المحرق بطل دوري زين لكرة السلة للموسم الرياضي الحالي 2018-2019

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Ahmed Aldurazi continued a strong performance in the Finals with 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in the deciding game. Over the entire series against Al Riffa, Aldurazi averaged 18.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. It wasn’t the only award for the champions that night as their star Mike Harris also claimed the title as the league’s best Foreign player with averages of 24.0 points, 16.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per contest.

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While Al Riffa suffered the crushing defeat, they get a consolation prize in having their star Mohamed Buallay named as league MVP. The 24-year-old 13.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.1 assists.

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Wild, Wild, West Asia

The leagues in West Asia are also ready to commence the next stage of their seasons after the conclusion of the elimination round.

 

In the Alfa Lebanese Basketball League, the suspense was dragged out to the very final game between last year’s Finals matchup, Al-Riyadi and Homentemen. A win for Riyadi would have secured them a second seed in the playoffs with a 13-3 while a loss would doom them to the fourth spot in the standings instead.

A heroic 50-point performance by Homentemen’s Walter Hodge guided the defending champions to a 112-97 victory, knocking their rivals Riyadi down to the other side of the bracket.

 

4th seed Riyadi will play 5th seed Byblos where the winner will face the victor of the matchup between 1st seed Champville and 8th seed Atlas. 3rd seed Homentemen will face 6th seed Hoops Men Club in the Quarterfinals where they will get a chance to advance and play either 2nd seed Beirut of 7th seed Moutahed in the Semis.

Over in Iran, the playoffs will tipoff on April 4th. The Top 4 seeds are Petrochimi (1st seed), Chemidor (2nd seed), Shahdari Gorgan (3rd seed), and Naft Abadan (4th seed), in that order, and they will face Niroo Zamini (8th seed), Pegah Tehran (7th seed), Mashad (6th seed), and Zob-Ahan Isfahan (5th seed), respectively.

 

The top 4 teams in the Iraqi Basketball Super League have progressed to the Final Four round: Al Shorta (18-2), Naft Baghdad (18-2), Al Karkh (17-3), and Naft Al-Janoob (12-8). These teams will commence play once again on March 26 in a round robin format.

 

Kings of the KBL

Before the KBL playoffs went into action, the league took the time to announce their regular season award winners.

From left to right; Ra Gun-A, Byung Joon-Hyung, Lee Jung-Hyun 

Lee Jung-Hyun has been a consistent candidate to win the MVP award over the years and was finally crowned as the league’s Most Valuable player this season for the first time. The 32-year-old forward of Jeonju KCC Egis was heartbroken in the past two years after missing out on winning the award, but was all smiles as he received the trophy on stage this season. He’s been a consistent star for KCC Egis with averages of 17.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists per game. It’s rare for an MVP to come from a team that did not win the regular season title, but Lee was able to do so for the 4th seeded KCC Egis.

Ra Gun-A of the regular season champs, Ulsan Mobis Fibers, snagged the title of Foreign MVP making it his 3rd ever claim to the award. He also ties legendary KBL foreign player Johnny McDowell for most Foreign MVP titles and is aiming to break that record next year. The naturalized Korean citizen put up 24.7 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per content this season for his team.

Other awards include:

Coach of the Year: Yoo Jae-Hak, Ulsan Mobis Fibers (43-11)

Rookie of the Year: Byung Joon-Hyung, Anyang KGC (8.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists)

Most Improved Player: Yang Hong-Seok, Busat KT (13.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists)

Defensive Player of the Year: Park Chan-Hee, Incheon ETLand Elephants

Sixth Man of the Year: Kim Nak-Hyun, Incheon ETLand Elephants (7.6 points, 2.5 assists)

All-KBL Team:

Lee Jung Hyun, Jeonju KCC Egis
Rah Gun-A, Ulsan Mobis Fibers
Ham Ji-Hoon, Ulsan Mobis Fibers
Park Chan-Hee, Incheon ETLand Elephants
Yang Hong-Seok, Busan KT

The MVP immediately proved his worth for the title in the opening playoff game between Jeonju KCC Egis (4th seed) and Goyang Orions (5th seed). After trailing by as much as 14 points, Lee’s 26 points helped will Jeonju back into the game and a clutch triple sealed the deal towards a 94-87 victory.

Lee Jung-Hyun's clutch shot

The other playoff matchup between Changwon LG Sakers (3rd seed) and Busan KT (6th seed) had to go into an overtime session before the higher ranked Sakers took home a 94-92 win. Kim Jong-Kyu was a force for the Sakers with 24 points and 12 boards, but it was Kim Si Rae (22 points, 11 assists) who was the hero for the home team by scoring 5 points in the last 30 seconds of regulation to force overtime.

Kim Si-Rae scores 5 points in 30 seconds

Stars bring A-game to CBA Playoffs

It tends to get heated up in the CBA playoffs and the featured stars of each team are expected to perform at their peak forms through this stretch.

The Beijing Ducks easily handled the Shanghai Sharks in a two-game sweep with sharpshooter Zhai Xiaochuan putting up 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in the series.

Left, Zhai Xiaochuan (Beijing Ducks)

As expected, the Fujian Sturgeons toppled the Jilin Northeast Tigers in two straight games as well. The recently announced MVP Wang Zhelin put up his usual absurd numbers of 22.0 points and 15.5 rebounds per contest in the sweep. Wang is looking for a deep playoff run to compliment his MVP title and he needs Chen Linjian to put up more games like the 23-point, 3-rebound, 3-assist outing in Game 1 of this series.

CBA 2018-2019 MVP Wang Zhelin (Fujian Sturgeons)

9th seed Jiangsu Kendia pulled off the only “upset” over 8th seed Shandong Golden Stars in two games. A stellar performance by all-star Wu Guanxi in Game 1 with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and a whopping 7 blocks set the tone as Jiangsu ran away with the series.

Wu Guanxi (Jiangsu Kendia)

The most tightly contested duel was between the two franchise of Zhejiang, sparked with outstanding performances from stars of both teams. The lower-ranked Golden Bulls stunned last season’s finalists by stealing Game 1, but the Lions retaliated with two straight wins afterwards. National team and all-star forward Wu Qian has been the heart and soul of the Zhejiang Golden Bulls and his average of 20.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists nearly willed them to succeed in an upset. It just wasn’t enough to overcome the dominance in the paint of the Lion’s Hu Jinqiu who shined with averaged of 25.0 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks throughout the series. 

Hu Jinqiu (Zhejiang Guangsha Lions)

Wild finish for Wildcard in B.League

As always, it will be quite a wild finish in regular season of the Japanese B.League as teams head towards the B.League championship.

The East division remains strong as the Chiba Jets (42-7), Link Tochigi Brex (40-9), and Alvark Tokyo (36-13) lock up their playoff bids. Aside from the 4 other spots reserved for the top two teams in the West and Central divisions, this leaves only 1 more wildcard playoff slot for the remaining squads.

 The Toyama Grouses (26-23) are on the unlikely to catchup with Niigata Albirex (35-14) and Kawasaki Brave Thunders (32-17) in the Central division, but have made a furious run for the final wildcard spot, now on a 4-game winning streak. This puts division rivals Mikawa SeaHorses (24-25) and West division Nagoya Diamond Dolphins (25-24) under pressure as both teams are struggling with a string of 4 losses and 2 losses, respectively.

These teams cannot overlook the Hitachi Sunrockers (23-26) who are coming off back-to-back wins with former NBA center Robert Sacre averaging 45.0 points (!) and 13.5 rebounds in the victories. 

 

Underdogs

We all love a good underdog story and the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) features some of the best out there.

 In his 3rd PBA season, Jackson Corpuz of Columbian Dyip gets a lot of attention for his hair but that just only overshadows what he has been bringing to the court for his team. The 30-year-old went undrafted in 2014 and had to climb his way up the minor leagues before getting his debut back in 2017. Corpuz has emerged as an important player for Columbian with his best Philippine Cup yet, averaging 11.9 points and 6.6 rebounds. Making and sticking around in the PBA is no easy task which Corpuz has found out but overcome nonetheless.

Unlike Corpuz, Bong Galanza was drafted in the PBA draft back in 2015 but with the 46th pick. While he was able to stick around for the entirety of his contract with his former club, North port Batang Pier, it was only until he was signed as a free agent to the NLEX Road Warriors when he was able to prove his worth.

 Galanza has been having a confident conference, recently winning the Player of the Week honors with the 7th seeded Road Warriors and is averaging 12.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. 

Two-way race

The Chinese-Taipei Super Basketball League (SBL) was tightly knotted up the previous week but after recent results, the top 2 spots have been locked in. Taiwan Beer (21-12) seemed like they were primed to clinch the top seed but two losses in the past 4 games including a shocker to bottom dwellers Bank of Taiwan has now changed the situation.

Instead, they are now tied up with the Fubon Braves who have identical records and will be facing each other this March 29. The Braves are on fire with a 7-game winning streak and that upcoming game should determine who ends up as the SBL regular season champions.

Top of the Standings:

Alfa Lebanese Basketball League: Champville won regular season (13-3)
Bahrain Premier League: Muharraq won Championship over Al Riffa, 3-0
Chinese Basketball Association (CBA): Guangdong Southen Tigers won regular season (42-4)
Iranian Super League: Petrochimi won regular season (15-1)
Iraqi Basketball Super League: Al Shorta won regular season (18-2)
Korean Basketball League (KBL): Ulsan Hyundai Mobis won regular season (43-11)
Super Basketball League (SBL): Taiwan Beer (21-12), Fubon Braves (21-12)
Philippines Basketball Association: Phoenix Fuelmasters (9-2)

FIBA