MANILA, Philippines – What was expected to be a dogfight between two evenly-matched teams turned out to be a blowout of a series as the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins were swept in two games by the Kawasaki Brave Thunders over the weekend.
Ray Parks and the undermanned Diamond Dolphins could not muster enough firepower to keep pace with the home team Brave Thunders who were clicking on all cylinders.
In Game 1 of the quarterfinal series on Saturday, Scott Eatherton did his darndest to carry Nagoya on his back to make up for the absence of fellow imports Cody Clarke and Ovie Soko who were both down with injuries.
His efforts, though, would go for naught as Nagoya were blasted by Kawasaki, 71-97.
Eatherton had an early double-double of 15 points and 10 boards at the end of the first half which saw the Diamond Dolphins trailing by 12, 30-42.
That was the best that Nagoya could hope for as the Brave Thunders came out smoking in the second half and scored 31 points to pull away with a 23-point advantage, 50-73, at the end of the third quarter.
Kawasaki made sure that the other top point makers of Nagoya would not get their usual numbers as Parks – the only Filipino import to reach the playoffs – and Japan national team stalwarts, court general Takumi Saito and power forward Tenketsu Harimoto, were all held below double digits in scoring.
Parks, averaging 10.6 points, had just 4 points on 2-of-6 shooting, and Saito, the squad’s fourth-leading gunner with an average of 11.5 points, was limited to 9 points.
Harimoto only contributed 4 points and 2 boards, while Eatherton was stonewalled by the imposing frontline of Kawasaki in the second half and ended with just 19 points and 13 rebounds.
The Brave Thunders, on the other hand, had five players dropping double-digit production. Bannering the charge for Kawasaki was Japan national team playmaker Yuma Fujii who ran circles around the Nagoya defense to finish with 21 points, including 5 triples. Fujii also had 7 assists and 3 steals.
Wingmen Matt Janning had 13 points and Naoya Kumague had 14 points to add to the Kawasaki cause. Big men Pablo Aguilar and naturalized center Nick Fazekas failed to reach double digits in scoring, but it hardly mattered as the Brave Thunders simply had too much in their artillery to overwhelm the Diamond Dolphins.
In their rematch on Sunday, things turned from bad to worse for Nagoya as Eatherton joined Clarke and Soko in the injured list.
The Diamond Dolphins, however, were determined to put up a better stance in the face of the Brave Thunders’ obvious superiority in size and offensive weapons. The Diamond Dolphins managed to keep the game tight the entire first half and trailed by just a point at the end of the first quarter and by 5 at the close of the second quarter, 36-41.
Similar to the first game, the Brave Thunders would get their separation in the second half to pull away eventually for the win, 70-85.
Saito and Parks were once again prevented by the Kawasaki defense from registering their usual production. Saito shot a miserable 3-of-11 from the field to finish with 9 points, while Parks had 7 points but struggled with his shots as he sank just 2-of-7 attempts.
Harimoto paced the Diamond Dolphins with 22 points and 6 boards but also committed 5 turnovers.
Fazekas displayed his all-around brilliance for Kawasaki with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. Frontline partner Aguilar registered a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds as he and Fazekas threw their weight around in the interior against the outsized Nagoya frontline.
It was a sorry end to the campaign of the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins which was largely considered one of the darkhorses in the B. League playoffs. – Rappler.com