Four reasons why Lebanon can continue their impressive run through Window 4
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - To say that it's been a special summer for Lebanon basketball might not be entirely correct. Of course, the Cedars have had a spectacular summer, but the reality is that it's just been a fantastic run over the past couple of years for Lebanon on the court.
Since the start of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in 2019, Lebanon have played a total of 18 games on FIBA Asia competitions as well as 5 more games in the Arab Basketball Championship 2022. Of those 23 games, Lebanon have lost only twice.
The first defeat coming against Asia Cup Semi-Finalists in Amman and the second in the Asia Cup Final against Australia by just only one point. It's not as pretty as an undefeated run, but it's still one of the best resumes in Asia basketball over these recent years.
The Cedars will be back in action for Window 4 of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers as they now aim to make history again by qualifying for the World Cup next year. Will they be able to keep their impressive track record going?
Here are a few reasons why they can continue their winning ways in the upcoming games:
This is my house 🏠
They've only played 6 of the 23 games at home in Lebanon, but each of those games ended up with resounding wins for the Cedars. Lebanon's average margin of victory at home during this stretch is at 35.8 points per game with no one coming closer than 19 points.
The atmosphere at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex can get intense and loud, which is just how Lebanon likes it and why their opponents can feel out of place as visitors. In Window 4, it will be the Philippines who will travel to Zouk Mikael on August 25. They have had experience playing here at Asia Cup 2017, but that probably doesn't make it any more easier to beat Lebanon in their own home.
Aside from playing against the Philippines in the first gameday, Lebanon will also be traveling to Bengaluru to face India on August 29.
If those matchups sound familiar to all of you Asia Cup fans, that's because it is. At Asia Cup 2022, Lebanon were in Group D during the Group Phase which pitted them against Philippines, India, and New Zealand. It'll be a rematch against Gilas and India in this window, whom Lebanon beat convincingly by 15 and 41 points, respectively.
Obviously, there could be some roster and tactical changes, but it's always nice to have a psychological edge over an opponent you recently beat.
🔒 Lock down
An under-appreciated part of Lebanon's run over the past tournaments is their defense. They have physical, quick guards to slow down the pace and long, agile wings and forwards to cover up space.
At Asia Cup 2022, Lebanon were one of the best defensive teams - a large part of why they made it to the Final. They allowed 74.0 points per game on 42.5 percent shooting from the field and 33.9 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line. Aside from the intense game against Jordan, Lebanon kept all of their opponent to lower scoring on lower efficiency than average.
Like every team, there will be some days where the offense doesn't click and the shots just won't go down. But if Lebanon continues to play defense the way they've been playing, they will continue to be a very tough team to beat.
Trump card 🃏
If all factors fail to fall through, one of the key reasons that will always give Lebanon a good chance at winning a game is the simple fact that they have the reigning Asia Cup MVP on their team in Wael Arakji.
View this post on Instagram
It has not yet been confirmed whether Arakji will be playing or not in Window 4 of the World Cup Qualifiers, but it would definitely be fun to see. In particular, it would be exciting to see the fan reactions in their home game against the Philippines which would be the first home game for the MVP.
If you have the leading scorer and arguably the "most clutch" player of the Asia Cup (not to mention him being the MVP) on your squad, that should always give your team a good advantage.