2013 FIBA Asia Championship Semifinals Preview
MANILA, Philippines -- Last night, our hardcourt heroes from Gilas Pilipinas settled an old score by disposing of the Kazakh quintet, 88-58. It marked the first time a Philippine national basketball team has beaten Kazakhstan at the senior level of FIBA Asia/ABC competition since the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games. FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. An old score settled indeed.
Tonight, the stage is set for Gilas to meet another old adversary. This time, it is a team that has always managed to get the best of us at the most crucial moments.
Remember the semifinals of the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games.
Remember the semifinals of the 2002 Busan Asian Games. Remember the two games in the 2009 Tianjin FIBA Asia Tournament.
Remember the battle for third in the 2011 Wuhan FIBA Asia Tournament.
So many times. So many heartbreaks. Barrels and barrels of tears.
Among the roster of Taeguk Warriors who have hurt us are Moon Kyung-Eun, Lee Sang-Min, Kim Joo-Sung, Oh Se-Keun, Cho Sung-Min, and Moon Tae-Jong.
And these Koreans stand in our way again.
This curse has got to stop somewhere and at some point, and what better place and time that here and now? Right here on our home soil. We have them where we want them, and the time is ripe to shatter their accursed superiority.
Oh, but there is another game worth watching, too.
Rampaging Iran to be tested
That other semifinal encounter between a rampaging Iranian squad and a sweet-shooting Taiwanese quintet cannot be overlooked. Iran has remained strong throughout the first seven days, but Taiwan, with its huge win over China yesterday, showed the true meaning of heart.
Four teams. Two games. So many plot points.
It is going to be epic.
It is in this spirit that I will look at each of the semifinal match-ups. I will try to dissect how each game will probably go, and who the probable survivors would be. Naturally, there are clear-cut favorites, but, again, that doesn't mean wins will come easily.
Semis 1: IRAN vs TAIWAN
Iran will win because they are, at least on paper, superior to the Taiwanese in almost every way.
Giants like Hamed Haddadi, Asghar Kardoust, Hamed Sohrabnejad, and Rouzbeh Arghavan should be lords of the shaded lane (provided they're healthy, since both Haddadi and Kardoust might have gotten injured in yesterday's Jordan game), while wingmen Hamed Afagh and Samad Nikkhah Bahrami should prove to be match-up nightmares for Taiwan's SFs and SGs. Forward Oshin Sahakian should also be able to outwork his Taiwanese counterparts, while Mahdi Kamrani remains the best playmaker of the competition by far. It's just difficult picturing Iran to lose in this one.
Taiwan will win because this has been the most amazing long-range-shooting team in the whole tournament.
Any team that can get hot from beyond the arc in a snap has a chance no matter what the deficit is. Coach Hsu Chin-Che's boys have proven this twice already -- against the Philippines and China. They were down 13 in the fourth quarter against Gilas and down by as many as 17 versus China, but, still, the Taiwanese prevailed. If they can catch fire from deep again, then anything is possible.
Of course, the Taiwanese have also had problems with physicality (see their loss to Qatar), and there's hardly any squad more physical than Iran. If TPE can manage to holed its own and keep their heads in the game, coach Hsu's wards may just pull the rug from Team Melli.
Like yesterday, I'm picking IRAN as an 80-20 favorite.
Semis 2: THE PHILIPPINES vs KOREA
The Philippines will win because Marcus Douthit was able to get a lot of rest last night, and the crowd is going to be spectacular. Douthit played only a little more than 20 minutes against KAZ, and that should make him a bit more fresh against the bigs of Korea tonight. I doubt if he can dominate, but he will be an imposing presence on defense and a solid threat on offense. He should keep guys like Kim Joo-Sung and Kim Jong-Kyu terribly preoccupied.
Now, like the past couple of games, the more than 16,000 supporters of Gilas at the MOA Arena should provide the big lift. It's been obvious that coach Chot Reyes's wards play off of the crowd's energy, so it is imperative that the audience be as boisterous as possible. No coin-throwing or anything like that, but just unbridled patriotic energy.
South Korea will win because this has been the most mentally tough team of this tournament. Even more so than the Iranians, who have showboated a few times. The Koreans are all-business, and their efficiency will be on full display against Gilas tonight. And to think this is not even Korea at its full strength! A couple of key guys (Oh Se-Keun and Park Chan-Hee come to mind) are missing from the roster, but even then they have played worthy of being in the FIBA World Cup.
Long have we boxed the Koreans as a pure three-point shooting team -- a one-trick pony if you will -- but that cannot be further from the truth. They have a very balanced team, with great inside operators, slashers, and shooters alike. They don't have a single lockdown defender like Gabe Norwood, but the whole team closes out on the open spots like jackrabbits. Needless to say, this will be Gilas's toughest test yet.
Though I believe the curse will be broken tonight, my extensive knowledge of and exposure to both teams implore me to pick no favorite. The odds are split right at the middle. This is a 50-50 affair. - Rappler.com