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Historic home game, records broken, and more takeaways from Group D in Asian Qualifiers
DAMASCUS (Syria) & MANAMA (Bahrain) - From historic home games to historic individual performances, there was a lot going on in Group D of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers. This leaves a lot to break down, with some interesting details to takeaway.
Here are five takeaways from the group that should be interesting to look at.
Home Sweet Home
Losing to Kazakhstan in the second game of the window was not ideal, but for Syria to finally be playing in front of their fans in Damascus for the first time in a long while was noteworthy.
The fans put their impressive passion for the game on display from start to finish, while the players themselves played as hard as they could to reward the cheers from the stands. It was quite a sight to witness that even the visitors could not help admiring.
Despite losing both games, Syria did seem to get an extra jolt of energy from their electrifying fans. Don’t expect the next visitors at the Al Fayhaa Stadium in the upcoming windows to be able to play comfortably.
Silencing the doubters
There was some concern about the Iran national team considering their recent form playing in the Asia Cup Qualifiers whether it was the close games or even upset losses.
Iran have brushed those doubts aside - for now - after two dominating wins against Bahrain. They’ve won these games with 8 players averaging at least 8 points per contest, led by Mohammad Jamshidi (18.5 points per game) and Behnam Yakhchali (18.0 points per game).
Sure, they may not be the same team without Hamed Haddadi and Samad Nikkah Bahrami, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to potential to at least be as good as that golden generation.
(By the way, how fun was it to see 39-year-old Mahdi Kamrani back on the court?!)
Tripling and doubling down
Speaking of Iran, how good was Arsalan Kazemi?
The power forward’s average of 12.0 points per game might not turn many heads, but take a look at his entire body of work:
1.5 blocks per game
2.0 steals per game
75 percent field-goal shooting
21.5 rebounds per game (leads all players in Asian Qualifiers)
9.0 assists per game (leads all players in Asian Qualifiers)
That’s… a lot.
Most impressively was his line from the first game when he notched a rare triple-double of 10 points, 26 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. The 26 rebounds stand as the most so far in the World Cup Qualifiers, including from the 2019 cycle.
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Kazemi plays a large part in connecting the game from defense to offense and from post to perimeter and these numbers reflect that quite well.
Steppen Wolves steppin’ through
Syria are a tough opponent to beat, especially when they had the homecourt roaring in the stands, but Kazakhstan were able to seal the deal twice in this window.
Quite impressive work from coach Darko Russo’s team.
The team didn’t have any superstars put up explosive performances, but instead relied on steady contributions from the entire squad.
(Anton Bykov’s 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds on 13-22 shooting from the field and 9-10 shooting from the line in just 18.9 minutes per game is outstanding though.)
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While superstar power might be needed down the road, the foundation that Kazakhstan have right now works and shouldn’t be too hard to build on.
It’s tough to play in your first to World Cup Qualifiers games ever against one of the top two teams in Asia & Oceania according to the FIBA World Ranking, but that was the luck of the draw for Bahrain. They even had to play their first game on the road without their main big man, CJ Giles.
Nonetheless, they did have promising stretches.
The pieces are there, whether its Giles or Mohamed Kowaid who averaged 15.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game on 47.8 percent shooting from the field, 41,2 percent shooting from downtown, and perfect shooting from the free-throw line. What they need now is for some of the other components in the team to settle into place.