Towering Iran stands in way of Gilas Pilipinas' last-gasp bid

BEIJING, China – Gilas Pilipinas has one last shot to clinch a win in the FIBA World Cup, but standing in its way is a complete and rejigged Iran side led by superstars Hamed Haddadi and Nikkah Bahrami.

Unlike the shorthanded crew the Philippines faced in the Asian Qualifiers late last year, Iran will be at full strength this time with its one-two punch of the 7-foot-2 Haddadi and 6-foot-6 Bahrami back in the fold.

The two have been the driving force for Iran in the World Cup, with Haddadi averaging 13.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.0 steals, and Bahrami norming 11.5 points and 3.0 rebounds. 

Also, Iran will parade another seven-footer in Aaron Geramipoor, who – in his first stint with the national team – has been a major contributor with per game counts of 10.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in just 17 minutes of play. 

"[The] Philippines have smaller guys, faster, better ball-handler, and they're better one-on-one. So definitely, it's a different plan, but I think we have potential," Bahrami said after their first tournament win over Angola. 

"We have a good team. Defensively, we have a very good team." 

Iran has had the Philippines' number in recent duels as it swept their first two matches in the Asian Qualifiers – an 81-73 win in Tehran and a 78-70 victory in Manila. 

But that will be thrown out the window when the Asian rivals tangle in their classification round match at the Wukesong Arena on Sunday, September 8, with Iran coach Mehran Shahintab saying they respect the Philippines "too much." 

"We respect them and we know that they can score very well," Shahintab said.  

"They have great players, some naturalized players, some American players. No wonder [Andray] Blatche and the rest of the players, they're all great. And it's a difficult team like Angola.

"We try our best to have a good game against them." Rappler.com

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.

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