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14 Arsalan Kazemi (IRI)
Enzo Flojo's Asia On My Mind
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Why Asian teams have struggled at the OQTs

MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on my Mind) - Three great Asian teams started their #RoadToRio campaigns this week at the different 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQT). As of this writing, none of those three Asian squads have been able to notch a single win.

Iran got blown out by Greece before falling short against Mexico in Turin, Italy. Japan dropped their opener to Latvia and will take on Czech Republic tomorrow in Belgrade, Serbia. The Philippines, meanwhile, gave France a good fight before succumbing on Day 1 in Manila. Gilas Pilipinas will take on New Zealand later, and the former are hoping they can break through with a W.

Now these are among the top Asian sides, and they have one player each who has had NBA experience — Yuta Tabuse for Japan, Hamed Haddadi for Iran and Andray Blatche for Gilas Pilipinas. It, therefore, stands to reason that they should put up better fights against even stronger European competition.

If that’s the case, then why have these teams remained winless and why, at least in the case of Japan and Iran, have they lost badly?

One reason is size. This is the perennial bane of Asian teams once they reach the world level of basketball competition, and it couldn’t be more apparent than it was when Japan took on Latvia. Japan’s tallest player is 2.07m/6ft 9in Joji Takeuchi, while Latvia have two seven-footers: 2.13m/7ft 0in Kaspars Berzins and 2.15m/7ft 1in Anzejs Pasecniks. The Akatsuki Five’s average height is just 1.93m/6ft 4in, while Latvia’s is 2.00m/6ft 7in. It didn’t come as a shocker, then, that Latvia outrebounded Japan, 48-29, and outscored them, 34-14.

Similarly, the Philippines and Iran were smaller than their foes. The Filipinos’ average height is 1.96m/6ft 5in, while the French’s is 2.00m/6ft 7in. Gilas Pilipinas were outworked on the boards and terribly outscored in the box by Les Bleus. As for Iran, they went up against a Greek side whose average height was 2.05m/6ft 9in — seven centimeters more than Team Melli’s.

Another reason is anemic shooting. Since Asian teams tend to be smaller, they need to make a more conscious effort to compensate in other areas like speed and accuracy. With guards like Tabuse, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo and Sajjad Mashayekhi, these three Asian teams certainly have the speed down pat, but their shooting has been inconsistent, if not downright atrocious.

Against Latvia, Japan connected on a paltry 28.6% of their field goals — a big reason for the 40-point final margin. The Philippines, for their part, started their game against France in very promising fashion, hitting 50% of their shots in the first quarter, but their shooting effectiveness dipped considerably after that. At game’s end, Gilas Pilipinas made only 41% of their field goals compared to a 54% success rate for France. The Iran-Greece game wasn’t pretty, too. Coach Dirk Bauermann’s wards hit under 39% from the floor while allowing Hellas to make half of their total field goal attempts.

Finally, another significant factor contributing to the losses of the Asian teams has been their turnovers. The Philippines turned the ball over 18 times against France even as Iran averaged more than 23 errors per outing in their losses to the Greeks and Mexicans. Japan did much better in this area, but, again, they shot and rebounded so poorly that each miss might as well have been a turnover.

After going winless in their group, Iran have been formally eliminated from Olympic contention, while Japan still have a longshot against the Czechs. The Pinoys, meanwhile, are banking on more “puso” to fire them up against the Tall Blacks tonight.

What do they have to do? To compensate for their deficiency in size, the Akatsuki Five and Gilas Pilipinas have to hustle more in the paint, push the tempo, and be more efficient with their shooting.

Enzo Flojo


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Enzo Flojo

Enzo Flojo

Enzo Flojo, one of Manila’s top basketball bloggers, always has Asian basketball on his mind. His biggest basketball dream? To see an Asian team as a legitimate gold medal contender in world basketball. He believes it will happen in his lifetime. If you have big basketball dreams like he does, then you’re in the right place.