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Bahrami carries Iran to third-place finish
CHANGSHA-HUNAN (2015 FIBA Asia Championship) - Iran rode the hot shooting of Samad Nikkhah Bahrami to a 68-63 victory over Japan in the battle for third place at the FIBA Asia Championship on Saturday.
Bahrami, the captain of Iran, finished with a game-high 35 points.
Iran scored 18 of the game's first 21 points but failed to stamp their authority on the game and nearly paid the price as Japan battled back and closed the gap to 31-29 at half-time before going in front in the third quarter.
The Far East team had its biggest lead of six points with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter and was still ahead at 51-49 with 8:30 to go in the contest before Iran struck back, catching fire from long range.
Though Iran went back in front by 12, Japan refused to give in and hit four late three-pointers to pull to within five but Iran held on for a five-point triumph.
Though Japan have not reached the podium, they will not leave the FIBA Asia Championship empty-handed because both they and Iran will play at a FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year.
Turning Point: With 6:22 to play and Iran on top 52-51, Sajjad Mashayekhi drilled a three-pointer. Following two missed free-throws by Gaku Arao, Bahrami struck with another three for a 58-51 lead. Iran stayed on top the rest of the way.
Stats Don't Lie: Japan were very competitive in this game in large part because of their bench production, with reserves accounting for 36 points.
Game Hero: Bahrami was terrific, nailing eight of his team's 11 three-pointers.
The Bottom Line: Japan did not reach the podium but nevertheless played very well in their last two games, which bodes well for their future. Iran had to dig deep to get a win and finish with a medal. They will need other players to step up next year to have a chance of making it to the Rio de Janeiro Games.