Who will draw first blood in the Asian league finals starting this week?
ASIA - We have our first ticket to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2019 Final 8 round punched in with a couple more to come soon in the following weeks. There are upsets, there are broken hearts, and surely there is plenty of action to recap in this week’s action around leagues in Asia!
Information updated as of April 24, 2019
First to Dance
Ulsan Mobis were pegged as the team to beat from the start of the Korean Basketball League (KBL) season and they fulfilled those expectations, successfully beating Incheon ET Elephants 4-1.
Aside from this being Ulsan’s 7th title - the most by any KBL franchise - it also assures them a spot at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2019 Final 8 round. Last season’s KBL champions, Seoul SK Knights, finished all the way up at 3rd place in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018 and Ulsan will most likely be aiming at a higher finish than their league counterparts this year.
Lee Dae-Sung, the youngest of the Ulsan’s seasoned starting line-up, was awarded the KBL Finals MVP after averaging 16.2 pointds, 2.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.2 steals in the series. Lee was slightly edged for the regular season MVP award to Lee Jung-Hyun (Jeonju KCC Egis), but this MVP trophy and the championship title should make up for the earlier disappointments.
It’s the Final Countdown
Not 1, not 2, not 3 but four finals series across Asian leagues will go underway this week.
(Guangdong vs Xinjiang in regular season, Photo Credit: CBA)
In the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), it’ll be a derby match between the two mighty 虎(Hǔ) or Tigers: Guangdong Southern Tigers and Xinjiang Flying Tigers. Both teams are returning to the CBA Finals for the first time since 2017 when Xinjiang won their franchise's first title over Guangdong in a sweep. The loss also held the proud Guangdong franchise without a title for another year, a streak that has reached to 5 seasons up until this year’s finals appearance.
Guangdong have had a longer rest heading into the finals after completing a sweep over the Shenzhen Leopards in the semifinals. Xinjiang had a little more trouble on their hands in the ex-defending champions Liaoning, before crushing the Flying Leopards in a 99-62 game 5 victory.
Can Xinjiang become the 4th franchise to claim multiple CBA championships or will Guangdong takever Bayi Rockets to hold sole possession of the All-Time leader in titles?
Both finalists from the previous season are out in the CBA, but it’s going to be a rematch in the finals over in the Iraqi Basketball Super League (IBSL). Naft Baghdad (5-1) and Al Shorta (5-1) both handled their business in the final 4 round to finish with the two best records, advancing to the finals.
The finals are a best-of-9 series, carrying over the results of head-to-head games between the two teams from both the regular season and the final 4 round. In their latest matchup this past week, Al Shorta was able to level the head-to-head record at 2-2 with an 83-79 win. Recently signed Rashad Woods blasted for 39 points for Al Shorta, supported by 14 points and 9 rebounds from Hayder Aldiwani.
Baghdad’s Ali Ismael (17 points, 14 rebounds) still got his numbers, but he and the team will need to better contain Woods for a better chance at being the first to win 3 games and secure the ISBL title.
(Al Shorta vs Naft Baghdad, Photo Credit: IBSL)
Iran will be showcasing some fresh faces in their league’s finals matchup after both Palayesh Naft Abadan and Shahdari Gorgan completed upsets in their semifinals series.
After losing badly in game 2, Gorgan rallied back with two convincing wins. Amir Seddighi starred in game 1 of the series and bounced back for two big games this past week to average 17.5 point, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 2.0 steals on his way to the Finals.
The proud green-and-yellow squad of Abadan successfully disappointed the defending FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018 winner, Petrochimi, winning the semifinals series 3-1. Abadan has grinded their way through the season with a balanced roster or Aren Davoudi, Mohammed Hasanzadeh, Saeed Davarpanah, and Rasoul Mazaffari. The late addition of Mike Rostampour has only made them more well-rounded and capable of taking down a strong team like Petrochimi.
Davarpanah shot the lights out in games 3 and 4 of the series, averaging 17.5 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting from downtown, while Mozaffari also stepped up with 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per contest.
The two Iranian Super League (ISL) finalists split their regular season series with Abadan winning the first meet 89-79 before Gorgan returned the favor two months later, 76-58.
Oh, how the table have turned
Riyadi have done their part to beat their semifinals opponents and return to the championship round of the Alfa Lebanese Basketball League. Champville's Leading scorer Fadi El-Khatib got back into form with 42 points this week after scoring only 8 in the first two games and though they were able to get one game from Riyadi, it wasn't enough to evade the game 3 loss that knocked them out of the playoff run.
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Homentemen, on the other hand, will not be heading to back to defending their crown this year.
Last year's champions started the series with a blowout against Beirut, who has stormed back for three straight wins on their way to the finals. Ali Haidar has maintained his status as the battering ram, pounding in 22.0 points and 9.0 rebounds on average in the last three victories.
Will Haidar be able to lead his new club over his former team in the finals?
The number one seed in the Philippine Cup, Phoenix Fuelmasters, are down but not out against the defending champs San Miguel Beermen. After falling behind 2-0, Phoenix survived a San Miguel comeback for a game 3 victory, 92-90.
June Mar Fajardo put in his usual work of 22 points and 19 rebounds, but Phoenix was able to counter the gaudy performance with 18 points, 13 boards, and 5 assists from fan-favorite Calvin Abueva.
Calvin Abueva's double-double output of 18 markers and 13 boards powered the @PHX_FuelMasters past @TheSMBeermen, 92-90, in Game 3 of their best-of-seven semifinals series.#PBAonESPN5 #PBALabanKungLaban pic.twitter.com/g8ZTPVetT9— ESPN5 (@Sports5PH) April 21, 2019
Phoenix could not go for two straight, dropping game 4 with a score of 114-91. The Beermen once again displayed their depth with 5 players in double-digit scoring, including 20 points from Terrence Romeo.
On the other side of the bracket, the Magnolia Hotshots overtaken the series against Rain or Shine at 3-2 following impressive performances from Ian Salangsang. The post player averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in the first two losses for the Hotshots, but has rebounded strongly with 14.3 points and 10.0 boards in the latter three games.
Ian Sangalang paced the @M_Hotshots to a wire-to-wire win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 94-91, to equalize their best-of-seven semis series at two games apiece.#PBAonESPN5 #PBALabanKungLaban pic.twitter.com/bSfcae2cTy— ESPN5 (@Sports5PH) April 22, 2019
At the very least, there will be no sweep in the Philippine Cup semifinals this time as both teams race to 4 wins in the best-of-7 series.
TIED AT 2⃣-ALL.— ESPN5 (@Sports5PH) April 22, 2019
The @M_Hotshots squeaked past Rain or Shine in Game 4, 94-91, to even their best-of-seven semifinals series. Check out the updated playoff bracket 👇 #PBAonESPN5 #PBALabanKungLaban pic.twitter.com/1ylw4XZxKr
The Chinese-Taipei Super Basketball League (SBL) are also in the semifinal stages of the playoffs and the defending champions, Pauian Archiland, seem to be in some trouble.
Pauian are facing the second seeded Taiwan Beer and are trailing 1-2, unable to withstand the multipronged offense of the Beer Bears. In both of Taiwan Beer victories, at least 5 players scored in double-digits and the team is shooting at nearly a 50 percent clip.
Pauian clawed game 3 back with the brilliance of Orlando Johnson, but they'll need more contributors to comeplete the comeback.
The other semifinals matchup between Yulon Luxgen Dinos and top seed Fubon Bravescontinue to go back and forth, with Fubon up 2-1. Game 1 saw the Braves force a rare poor performance for MVP candidate, Lin Wei Han, while getting vintage outputs on their end from Tsai Wen-Cheng (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Chang Tsung-Hsien (15 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals) on the way to an 88-78 win.
It went down to the wire in game 2, but the Dinos held a large enough margin to cling on to a 99-96 series tying win. Lin Wei Han rebounded with 14 points and 7 assists and reigning MVP, Lu Cheng-Ju fired away from 19 points o 5-11 three-point shooting.
The Braves mastered the Dinos in an 89-64 win in game 3 and leading the way was once again Tsai Wen-Cheng who had 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists.
Both series will be played until the first team reaches 4 wins to advance towards the finals and closer to a FIBA Asia Champinos Cup 2019 bid.
B.League Championship stage is set
The race for the final two spots of the B.League championship (or the B.League playoffs) went down to the final weekend in exciting fashion, but it just wasn’t meant to be for the Aishin SeaHorses Mikawa and Kyoto Hannaryz. The final two playoff spots therefore went to the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins (as 2nd seed of the Western Region) and Toyama Grouses (as 2nd wildcard seed).
Both the Diamond Dolphins and Grouses did their job to keep their spots by winning both games in the last weekend of regular season play. The SeaHorses suffered a heartbreaking 75-74 loss to the playoff-bound Kawasaki Brave Thunder on a basket by Ryusei Shinoyama with less than 20 seconds to go.
As the second wildcard seed, the Toyama Grouses (32-28) will be facing the division champion with the best overall record, Chiba Jets (52-28). Niigata Albirex (45-15) as the division champions with the second best record will face the first wildcard seed, Alvark Tokyo (44-16). The Ryuukyuu Golden Kings (40-20), as third best record among division champions, will face the team with the worst record among second seeds, the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins (33-27). This leaves Tochigi Brex (49-11) with the best record among second division seeds to face the Kawasaki Brave Thunders (40-20) to round out the quarterfinal matchups.
The B.League championship will commence action this weekend on April 26.