Thursday, December 21, 2006

2007 SBL schedule announced

The schedule of 2007 SBL season was announced Wednesday as defending champion Yulon will meet Taiwan Beer, which lost to Yulon in the Finals last season, in the opening game on January 6, 2007.

The regular season will run from Jan. 6 - May 6 for a total of 105 games with each team playing 30 games, meeting every opponent five times. Playoffs will start from May 11 and end on June 3, 2007 if the Finals goes to seven games.

YMY will change its name to Azio, a cable televesion station, due to sponsor change.

The 2007 season will be the first time that SBL games being held in cities outside of Taipei. Sixteen games will be moved to Miaoli, a mid-Taiwan city, and the southern city of Tainan in April and May.

The league also added a venue -- Sinjhuang Stadium in Taipei County -- in metro Taipei in addition to Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium, where all the SBL games were held during the last three years.

Seven teams will play in exhibition games from Dec. 30, 2006 - Jan. 2, 2007.

2007 SBL Primers:

Bank of Taiwan
Dacin Tigers
ETSN Antelopes
Taiwan Beer
Videoland Hunters
Yulon Dinos

Regular season: Jan. 6 - May 6, 2007
105 games with each team playing 30 games

Playoffs: May 11 - June 3, 2007
1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 in best-of-three semifinals
Losers meet in a best-of-five third-place series
Winners meet in a best-of-seven title series

Post Asian Games observation Part II


Part II of my short observation of the Doha Asian Games men's basketball:


SOUTH KOREA: The fifth place is probably a good result for other countries, but not for Korea, which won the gold medal four years ago in Pusan and has always been China's biggest rival. Basically the finish will be seen as a humiliation for Koreans, who have been always proud of their basketball.

It looks to me that Korean basketball is in an awkward situation that doesn't know where it wants to go. Does it want to go big, with the inside presence of 7-3 Ha Seung Jin? Does it want to keep its shooting-the-lights-out old style as a team that stresses its quickness?

Korea knows very well that if it wants to beat China, it needs to go big and improve its height in every position. But once they do that, they probably have to say goodbye to the old style and start playing a whole new brand of basketball.

Which explains why Korean basketball, in my eyes, is in a crossroad. Plus, for the past two years it has been in a transition period after a couple of veterans, such as Lee Sang Min, Hur Jae and Moon Kyung Eun, among others, retired from the national team.

On the other hand, maybe I'm over-concerned. If Korea's opponent in the quarterfinal was not China, it might as well went to the semifinals, even the title game.

Anyway, Korean did not play well in the tournament. A upset loss to Jordan and the fourth place finish in the prelim were why it had to meet China in the quarterfinal.

205cm center Kim Joo Sung was still Korea's best player, leading the team with 15 points and 5.3 boards per game. Ha Seung Jin played a lot of minutes but finished with only 9.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and an embarrassing 37% free-throw percentage, making him opponents' best target to foul.

Two weird scenes here. Bang Sung Yoon (10.5p) exploded for 42 points in one game (dropping 12 threes!) but did not score at all in the other three games he played. Lee Kyu Sup only appeared in two games.

Yang Dong Geun averaged for 10.3 points per game while point guard Kim Seung Hyun averaged for 10 points plus 5.8 assists. In my opinion, Kim -- once dubbed as the most talented point guard prospect in Korea -- dominated the ball a little bit too much.

Korea does not need to worry about talents. Korean basketball will always produce talented players. But it will have a lot of work to do after the Asian Games. First off, it has to figure out where it wants to go in the future. Secondly, its national team program probably needs to be re-organized.

And it seems to me that Korean shooters are not as good as before. Korea needs height desperately in order to beat China, but it has to keep good shooters on the team as well.


JAPAN: Japan only finished for 6th place but new head coach Kimikazu Suzuki made a successful national team debut after replacing Croatian coach Zeljko Pavlecivic.

Suzuki successfully mixed the old with the young in the tournament. His philosophy is drastically different than the former coach, who opted to go for a youth movement. Suzuki, head coach of JBL's Aisin Seahorses, brought back three Aisin veterans Takehimo Orimo, Kenichi Sako and Eric McArthur and was not disappointed.

36 years-old shooting guard Orimo led the team with 11.9 points. Sako's (5.0p) experience has been valuable throughout the tournament when the team needed him. McArthur only lasted one game though.

Younger players also showed tremendous improvement after the World Championship, including 23 years-old Ryota Sakurai (194cm, 10.4p) and 21 years-old Kosuke Takeuchi (205cm, 9.6p+8.4rb).

25 years-old PG Shinsuki Kashiwagi (181cm, 8p+3a) was the unsung hero for the team with his hustle, penetration and directing the half-court offense. Tomoo Amino (196cm, ) another player from Aisin, had 7.5 points per game.

Will Japan replace its youth movement with the mix of veterans and youngsters? It's a question to be answered. In the long run, I believe it's better for Japan to keep its youth movement going instead of relying too much on veterans because Pavlicevic had worked with the young guys for a couple of years.


KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhstan is probably my favorite team in the entire tournament because of their potential and balance. It was really unfortunate for them to lose to Jordan in the quarterfinal. After all, the Kazkahs were 25 seconds away from the final four.

But they collapsed and eventually lost in overtime due to their youth and inexperience. It was a very hard lesson to learn.

Under the tutledge of head coach Alexey Yeropkin and assistant Vitaliy Strebkov, both former NT players, Kazakhstan has been the most improved team in Asia in the last two years. And believe me, it will be the most dangerous team in Asia within a short time.

With three of its starters under the age of 20, Kazakhstan plays like a seasoned team most of the times. It's always organized and fundementally sound. Its outside shooting is very underrated while the inside players always hit the boards.

18 years-old leading scorer Anton Ponomarev (208cm, 17.4p+9rb) will be a player to watch even for NBA scouts. He needs to develope his upper-body strength and gain experience to go to the next level though.

Rustam Yargaliyev (16.1p) and Yegor Biryulin (7p) were both born in 1986 and will be national team long-stays in the future. Other notable players include: 198cm Mikhail Yevstigneyev (12.3p+6.6rb, 1984, ) Yevgeniy Issakov (10.1p+7.5rb, 1982, 201cm, ) and veteran Dmitriy Korovnikov (11.7p, 198cm, 1976).


TAIWAN: See previous reports about the disappointing team. Maybe I am too harsh on my national team, but honestly, talking about the team is a waste of my time.


LEBANON: Lebanon was a team that did not want to play in Doha. And it was the reason of its disappointing finish. Their hearts were not in the game.

By saying that, Fadi El Khatib was still one of the most explosive scorers in Asia by averaging 23.8 points in four games. Joseph Vogel averaged for 19.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

Lebanon basically played a two-man game(El Khatib-Vogel) in the tournament and that was it.


SYRIA: Did I mention two-man game? How about a one-man show? Michael Madanly (191cm, 1981) was the only player Syria could count on, averaging for 27.7 points, 7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.9 steals per game.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Post Asian Games observation Part I

15th Asian Games Doha 2006 - Previews

Is there anyone surprised at China winning gold in the Doha Asian Games? Guess not. Bottomline is, China has been the only super power in Asia for the past few years and I really don't see any serious challenger down the road for another few years in the future. That is the fact we learnt at Doha.

Which means, South Korea is no longer able to give the Chinese a serious run for the title. Lebanon is a different team without former head coach Paul Coughter, who helped build Lebanese basketball as it is today.

If Qatar manages to keep its current American head coach Joseph Stiebing on board and its devotion on basketball. With more foreign-turned-Qatari players coming in, Qatar should be able to maintain its competition level. But it is still hard for them to challenge China, evidenced by the 58-44 title game score at Doha.

Aside from China, however, the competition level of other Asian countries has been as close as it could be in the history of Asian basketball. Asian basketball will be as exciting as ever in the future.

This is not a fantasy, especially when you saw Jordan and Iran made the semifinal and Taiwan almost made it there if it didn't lose to Qatar in double-overtime. Kazakhstan came out as a Cinderella team as well. The Kazkahs would've play in the semifinal if they didn't squander a 7 point lead in the last 25 seconds in the quarterfinal vs. Jordan.

I'll offer my quick observation for the top ten teams below.


CHINA: China's defense has improved a lot under the guidance of Lithuanian head coach Jonas Kazlauskas. Without the service of Yao Ming, the rise of young players like Yi Jianlian (212cm, 16.6p) and Sun Yue (205cm, 5.1p) gave China big hopes. And Wang Zhizhi (216cm, 19.0p), the tournament MVP, has been playing well consistently since his return to the national team.

Sun Yue will be the best player at the three spot, being able to push the ball upcourt and direct the offense. He is definitely the better choice at small forward -- more like a point forward -- than Zhu Fangyu, but I'm not convinced he can play as a point guard like many claimed.

Zhu Fangyu (200cm, 9.5p) and Wang Shipeng (197cm, 8.8p) will be the shooters China counts on for years to come. Their outside shot will take some loads off China's inside players and will be a big help.

Truth is, China is the team to beat in Asia even without Yao Ming and Wang Zhizhi. But the players need to keep their focus and give all their effort on the court at all times, which was not the case in the Asian Games and why Kazlauskas was unhappy sometimes.

As for Yi Jianlian, his age is constantly questioned by many. Aside from that, he needs to add some post moves to his reportoire in order to make it to the next level. His quickness, coordination and shooting touch are things you rarely see in big men though.


QATAR: The host country survived a scare in the quarterfinal game vs. Taiwan and made it to the title game. I guess that lived up to their pre-tournament expectation.

Over the years, Joseph Stiebing has taken this team to a different level. The team which simply could not make jumpers consistently has now become a team that can play inside and out. Qatar's height advantage makes it a dangerous team for anyone. But it has the same problem as China. Sometimes the players could lose focus and suddenly looked clueless on the court for five or ten minutes, which resulted in momentum changes that could've costed them a win.

The key for Qatar is always their outside shooting because they have no problem scoring over Asian teams inside. In that regard, players like Saad Abdulrahman Ali (194cm, 14.1p), Daoud Musa Daoud (193cm, 7.6p), Ali Turki Ali (200cm, 8.1p) and Erfan Ali Saeed (198cm, 11.6p) are those who can make or break the game for Qatar. But of course, the leadership of veteran Yasseen Ismail Musa (205cm, 11.8p) is critical for the team as well.


IRAN: I like their balance and youth. Same problems here. If these players learn how to gel as a team and gain more exprience, it will be even more dangerous. Plus, the core players on this squad are mostly under 24 years-old, such as B.M. Samad Nikkhah (198cm, 13.9p, ) Hamed Ehdadi (218cm, 10.1p+10rb, ) Mahdi Kamrany (180cm, 9.6p+4s, ) and Aidin Nikkhah Bahrami (200cm, 9.4p). It's why Iran will have a bright future ahead.


JORDAN: Jordan is the real Cinderella team in the tournament by upsetting South Korea in the prelim and erasing a 7-point deficit in 25 seconds in the quarterfinal game vs. Kazakhstan.

Jordan has played exceptionally well inside and out in the Asian Games. Its brusing frontline players are the key, including 204cm Zaid Al Khas (17.3p+8.3rb, 47% 3PT, ) 205cm Ayman Idais (8.3p+7rb, ) and 203cm Islam Abbas (7.6p+7rb).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Taiwan Women's NT overcame adversity to win silver in Doha

It's been a while since Taiwan Women's NT came home from Doha with silver medals. I apologize for not updating the news in time. Still, let's look back on what has happened in the Asian Games.

Not surprisingly, Taiwan lost to China in the gold medal game 90-59 but it's still Taiwan's best finish in its Asian Games history. And it hung with the Chinese for a period and never gave up before the final buzzer, which was probably good enough and something to be proud of.

Especially when you think about that the men's team took up the majority of resources, such as budgets and media/fans attention, and ended up with a disappointing 8th place finish, Taiwan Women's NT definitely saved the face for Taiwanese basketball.

Thanks to Lin Hui-mei's 13 points, the team trailed by China by only three (24-21) in the first quarter of the gold medal game, which was supposed to be a blowout from start to finish. Lan Jui-yu scored 9 points in the second quarter to prevent the score from out of reach. At halftime, Taiwan trailed 46-33.

The second half was another story, however. China quickly pulled away with its inside advantage. Admittedly, Taiwan was not on the same level with the Chinese.

The forward tandem Chiang Feng-chun (16.3p+6.2rb) and Liu Chun-yi (15.5p+3.5rb), both 25, is the backbone of the team. Both of them shot over 50 percent from the floor in the tournament and were the only players to average in double-figure scoring. Chiang and Liu will shoulder much of the scoriing load in the forseeable future and most important pieces in going for a 2008 Beijing Olympics seed.

Point guard Wen Chi has come of age at the age of 22 and showed promising future. With her dazzling speed and sound fundementals, Taiwan Women's NT can count on her for a long time to come.

Although she's only 170cm tall, Lan Jui-yu is a shooter on the rise who has a big heart and is fearless on the court. 20 year-old Lee Wan-ting also has great potential to be good in the future.

Cheng Hui-yun, who has been the starting center for the team for so many years, was somewhat hampered by her knee injury in the tournament and thus limited her effectiveness. Once receovered, Cheng is expected to be the main inside force again.

And don't forget 35 year-old Chien Wei-chuan, who has been on the national team for almost 20 years. Chien successfully transformed herself from the main scorer on the team to a seasoned veteran who directs offense and keeps her teammates focused at all times. Chien, who said she will not consider retirement until after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, may have lost a step or two but her experience and leadrship was hard to replaced.

Also give credit to head coach Hung Ling-yao, who gave her all to train this squad and now gets the sweet payback. Hung's relationship with the media was always strained but she only focused on what she was supposed to do.

Taiwan Women's NT Asian Games Roster

4 Chen Yi-feng G 171 1984 Cathay Life
5 Chien Wei-chuan G 171 1971 Cathay Life
6 Chiang Feng-chun F 184 1981 Cathay Life
7 Sun Chieh-ping G 172 1983 Cathay Life
8 Lan Jui-yu G 170 1983 Cathay Life
9 Chu Yung-hsuan F 177 1981 Cathay Life
10 Wen Chi G 168 1984 Cathay Life
11 Cheng Hui-yun C 186 1977 Cathay Life
12 Lin Hui-mei F 177 1981 Cathay Life
13 Lin Chi-wen C 186 1983 Tai Power
14 Lee Wan-ting F 180 1986 Cathay Life
15 Liu Chun-yi F 180 1981 Tai-yuan Textile

Head Coach: Hung Ling-yao
Assistant Coach: Chang Hui-yin, Wang Ling

Player Stats

Chiang Feng-chun 16.3p+6.2rb 56%FG
Liu Chun-yi 15.5p+3.5rb 53%FG
Wen Chi 8.5p+4.8a
Lin Hui-mei 7.3p+4rb
Lan Jui-yu 7.3p
Chu Yung-hsuan 5.8p+3.8rb
Lee Wan-ting 5.7p+5rb
Chien Wei-chuan 5.3p
Lin Chi-wen 4.7p
Cheng Hui-yun 3.3p+4.5rb

Friday, December 15, 2006

Asian Games - Disappointing finish for Taiwan NT in Doha

For the second consecutive game, Taiwan NT did not look like a team that wants to play basketball. It seemed all they wanted to do was going home.

A humiliating 100-74 loss to Kazakhstan gave Taiwan the worst finish ever -- the 8th place -- in its Asian Games history. Originally setting its goal at the top six, Taiwan instead finished one spot lower than four years ago in Pusan, Korea, when it was 7th place.

According to a Central News Agency report filed from Doha, head coach Lee Yun-kwang said after the game he will resign from the national team position.

Taiwan men's NT finished for 5th place in 1990 Asian Games, 6th place in 1994, 5th place in 1998 and 7th place in 2002.

Taiwan NT simply collapsed in its last two classification games vs. Japan and Kazakhstan after suffering a double overtime loss to Qatar in the quarterfinal. Today it was outrebounded by the Kazkahs by an astounding margin of 55-23 and shot only 41 percent, compared to Kazakhstan's 51 percent.

Before halftime, Taiwanese found they were trailing by double digit. In the second half it trailed by 30 points at one point.

Chou Shih-yuan led the team with 17 points. Lin Chi-jay had 14. Tien Lei and Tsun Wen-ding scored 12 and 10 respectively.

18 years-old Anton Ponomarev had a game-high 25 points and 9 rebounds. Mikhail Yevstigneyev followed with 23 points plus 16 boards. Rustam Yargaliyev had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.

Taiwan NT in Doha (3W-5L)

Preliminary round(3W-2L)
Lost 75-85 to Japan
Beat Kazakhstan 81-79
Lost to China 65-101
Beat Lebanon 86-72
Beat Uzbekistan 106-69

Lost to Qatar 96-103(2OT)

Classification games
Lost to Japan 67-78
Lost to Kazkahstan 74-100

Taiwan NT player stats

Chen Hsin-an 15.5p, 3.1rb, 3.1a, 3TO, 46% FG, 36% 3PT, 56% FT
Tien Lei 14.3p, 9.4rb, 1blk, 37% FG, 31% 3PT, 67% FT
Tsun Wen-din 11.5p, 8.1rb, 2.5blk, 47% FG, 65% FT
Lin Chi-jay 10.3p, 3.6rb, 40% FG, 33% 3PT, 83% FT
Yang Che-yi 10p, 51% FG
Chou Shih-yuan 7.6p
Lee Hsueh-lin 6.3p, 4.6rb, 2.6a, 49% FG, 27% 3PT, 64% FT
Chen Shih-nian 2.6p
Lee Chi-yi 2.3p
Yang Chin-min 1.8p
Wu Yong-jen 1.8p
Yua Yin-li 1.5p

Taiwan vs. Opponents

FG% 43:46
3PT% 32:36
RB 38.1:45.6

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Asian Games - Taiwan to meet Kazakhstan in 7th-8th classification game

Coming off a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Qatar in the quarterfinal, Taiwan NT lost to Japan again, 78-67, Wednesday Taiwan time in a classification game. It will meet Kazakhstan, which lost to South Korea 94-74, in the 7th-8th classification game, its last game in Doha.

If Taiwan beat Kazakhstan, it will finish exactly the same spot as four years ago when it finished for 7th place in Pusan Asian Games. Kazakhstan won bronze in Pusan.

Taiwan NT did not look like a team that wanted to be there, playing sluggishly and carelessly all game long. Japan, which beat Taiwan 85-75 in the preliminary round, immediately jumped to a 22-8 lead and cruised thereafter.

Chen Hsin-an led Taiwan with 14 points while Tien Lei had 10 points and 13 boards. As a team, Taiwan committed 19 turnovers and shot 37 percent from the field and made only half of its foul shots.

Tomoo Amino had 15 points to pace Japan, which also received 14 points from veteran shooter Takehiko Orimo, who shot 4 of 7 from threes. Ryota Sakurai had 10 points while Kosuke Takeuchi pulled down 14 rebounds to go with 6 points.

Japan will meet South Korea in the 5th-6th classification game.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Asian Games - Taiwan lost to Qatar in 2OT quarterfinal battle

Taiwan lost to host Qatar, 103-96, in an epic 2OT battle in the quarterfinal of the Doha Asian Games early Wednesday Taiwan Time. No matter. Most believed it was its best game in the tournament and all the players left their harts on the court.

Up next Taiwan will play in the 5-8 classification games with the other three quarterfinal losers: Japan, South Korea and Kazakhstan. China, Qatar, Iran and Jordan advanced to the semifinals.

Veteran Yasseen Ismail Musa scored 8 points in an 11-4 second overtime to help Qataris clinch the victory over Taiwan, a team it lost twice in this year's Jones Cup tournament.

Taiwan missed a great opportunity to seal the game with a win in the first overtime.

Yang Che-yi was fouled in his layup attempt with 5 seconds to go, when the score was tied at 92 all, but had to be taken out because of cramp. Chou Shih-yuan, designated to replace Yang as the foul shooter, missed both potential game-winning free-throws as the game entered the second extra session.

Taiwan, which led by as many as 11 points in the first half, was plagued by Qatar's relentless attack under the basket in the second half as the host team made it a three point game with under two minutes to go in regulation.

Chen Hsin-an converted two free-throws to increase Taiwan's lead to four, 80-76, before Musa's three-point play again cut the lead down to one point with 55 seconds remaining. Chen then made one of two free-throws after Musa committed an offensive foul as Taiwan could almost smelled the victory with less than 10 seconds remaining.

But Erfan Ali Saeed made sure the home crowd would not go home disappointed, making two free-throws to tie the game with 4.5 seconds left. Chen's desperation three-pointer missed the rim as the game went into overtime.

Taiwan NT has received a lot of criticism from fans and the media since the preliminary games for its lack of effort and defeatism as head coach Lee Yun-kwang revealed before the start of the tournament that the team would literally "give up" two games vs. China and Lebanon.

It lost to Japan by 10 in what was perceived as a winnable game and was routed by China in a 36-point loss. But it managed to squeeze by Kazakhstan by two and surprisingly beat Lebanon, which -- like our Lebanese correspondent wrote -- was a team that looked like they didn't want to be in Doha, to secure a quarterfinal berth.

Given the fact that Qatar as the host country and a strong team, few people gave Taiwan NT a chance before the quarterfinal clash. Now they know how close they were to the semifinal. The game probably can be an inspiration for the team to work harder and look into a bigger picture in the future.

Qatar 103-96(2OT) Taiwan

Quarter and OT scores: 18-25, 38-41, 61-66, 81-81, 92-92, 103-96

Qatar: Erfan Ali Saeed 27p+15rb, Ali Turki Ali 20p, Saad Abdulrahman Ali 19p+8rb, Yasseen Ismail Musa 15p, Omar Abdelkadar Salem 11p+11rb

Taiwan: Chen Hsin-an 24p, Yang Che-yi 23p(6-8 3PT), Lee Hsueh-lin 16p+7rb+5a, Tsun Wen-ding 16p, Tien Lei 12p+19rb

Monday, December 11, 2006

Asian Games - Taiwan to meet host Qatar in quarterfinal

Taiwan pounded Uzbekistan 106-69 as expected in its last preliminary game and eventually ended up as the No. 4 seed in Gorup F after Kazakhstan beating Japan, 77-72. Taiwan will face host Qatar next in the quarterfinal.

Taiwan eked out a mere two point lead at the half as the team played as carelessly as it could in the first half. It finally put the game away in the third quarter and made the score out of reach with a 30-9 fourth quarter.

Tien Lei had a team-high 22 points while Chou Chih-yuan had his personal-high 20 points in the tournament. Lin Chi-jay had 19 points to go with 7 boards and 6 assists. Chen Hsin-an made three threes in 15 minutes.

Vyacheslav Belokurov had 20 to pace Uzbekistan, which committed 28 turnovers in the game and finished the preliminaries with five losses.

Kazakhstan beat Japan by five in the next game.

As Taiwan, Japan and Kazakhstan had a three-way tie with 3 wins and two losses. Japan secured its No. 2 seed with the best point differential (+5) in head-to-head matchups among three teams. Kazakhstan (+3) got the No. 3 seed while Taiwan finished fourth (-8).

The final preliminary of China vs. Lebanon is still going on but the final placings of two preliminary groups should be as follows:

Group E: 1. Qatar, 2. Jordan, 3. Iran, 4. South Korea
Group F: 1. China, 2. Japan, 3. Kazakhstan, 4. Taiwan

The quarterfinal matchup should go as follows:
E1 Qatar vs. F4 Taiwan
E2 Jordan vs. F3 Kazakhstan
E3 Iran vs. F2 Japan
E4 South Korea vs. F1 China

Taiwan NT routed Qatar -- not once, but twice -- in this year's Jones Cup tournament. But any sane person will not bet against the home team in a tournament like the Asian Games because of the hoe court advantage. Plus, the Jones Cup is only an invitational tournament.

Theoretically, Taiwan will be in the semifinals if it beat Qatar. But the reality is, it will be very very hard for Taiwan to improve on its previous finish -- 7th place -- in the Asian Games.

(The China-Lebanon game is still on)
Group E
1. Qatar 4-1
2. Jordan 4-1
3. Iran 3-2
4. South Korea 3-2
5. Syria 1-4
6. Bahrain 0-5

Group F
1. China 4-0
2. Japan 3-2
3. Kazakhstan 3-2
4. Taiwan 3-2
5. Lebanon 1-3
6. Uzbekistan 0-5

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Asian Games - Taiwan goes to quarterfinal with win over Lebanon

A brilliant shooting night gave Taiwan a convincing 86-72 victory over Lebanon and a seed in the Doha Asian Games quarterfinal.

Led by Tsun Wen-din and Tien Lei, who combined for 38 points and 28 rebounds, Taiwan had its best shooting performance in the tournament so far, making 13 three-pointers as a team with five players in double-figures, and led from start to finish in a do-or-die game for both teams.

The win guaranteed Taiwan's spot in the quarterfinal regardless of the result of its last group game vs. Uzbekistan on Dec. 10. And Lebanon, which has been ranked highly prior to the tournament, was virtually out of the final eight after its third loss in the Asian Games.

Taiwan opened the game with a 28-15 first quarter and increased the lead to 50-33 at the half, making almost every open shot versus Lebanon's 2-3 zone. Taiwan led by as many as 22 points in the first half as Chen Hsin-an and Tien Lei each scored 12 points.

Lebanon, which still looked rusty after a week in Doha, started the game without No.1 scorer Fadi El Khatib, who hurt his back in the last game vs. Kazakhstan. El Khatib did not enter the game until the third quarter and soon made his presence felt.

Lebanon kicked off the second half with a 12-4 run that cut the deficit to nine points. But Taiwan was determined to win this game and answered with a 11-2 run that pushed its lead back to 18 points in the end of the third quarter.

The best Lebanon could do in the final 10 minutes was cut the deficit to 11 points with less than 2:30 to go.

Tsun Wen-din led Taiwan with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Tien Lei had 17 points and 14 boards. Chen Hsin-an chipped in 14 points to go with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Yang Che-yi scored 14. Chen Shih-nian, who made three threes in the second half to hold off Lebanon's rally, had 11 in the game.

Lebanon was outrebounded by Taiwan, 47-40. Joe Vogel led with 20 points and 9 boards. Fadi El Khatib had 15 points in only 19 minutes of playing time.

With only one game left for each team in the preliminary stage, the status of Group E is clear with Qatar, Jordan, Iran and South Korea ranking from first to 4th.

China should be able to get the top seed in Group F. The second to 4th seed of the group remained unclear. If Japan lost to China tonight, it has to beat Kazakhstan in its last game to secure the No.2 seed.

If Taiwan beat Uzbekistan, it will be the No. 3 seed in Group F if Japan beat Kazakhstan. If Kazkahstan beat Japan by less than 18 points, Taiwan will be No. 4. All this means Taiwan's possible opponents are either Jordan or Qatar in the single-elimination quarterfinal.

If Kazakhstan beat Japan by more than 18 points, it will be No. 2 while Taiwan ranking third and Japan dropping to No. 4.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Asian Games - Taiwan routed by China, 101-65

Taiwan NT did not "give up" the game versus China like what head coach Lee Yun-kwang hinted a couple days ago. Instead, the team played hard...for a quarter.

Taiwan was routed by China, 101-65, in its third preliminary game and is now tied with Lebanon and Kazakhstan with one win and two losses.

As Kazakhstan upset Lebanon 80-75 right before the Taiwan-China game, Kazakhstan will have an upper hand and advance to the quarterfinal if it eventually ties with Taiwan and Lebanon with the same won-loss record (The Kazakh lost to Taiwan by two but beat Lebanon by five).

Which means Taiwan vs. Lebanon game on Dec. 8 is a must-win game for both teams.

Taiwan trailed China by only one point, 24-23, after the first quarter. It led China 12-6 midway through the first period but China, led by Yi Jianlian, answered with an 11-0 run.

Taiwan failed to score in the first seven minutes of the second quarter as China pulled away with another 19-0 run and increased its lead to 19 points at the half. The second half was basically 20 minutes of garbage time.

Chen Hsin-an and Lin Chi-jay scored 14 points each for Taiwan while Tien Lei had 10 points. Taiwan was outrebounded by a humiliating 45-20 margin and attempted more shots from threes (30) than inside the arch (28).

Yi Jianlian made 12 of 13 shot en route to his best game in the tournament with 28 points and 9 boards. Zhu Fangyu had 18 points. Point guard Hu Xuefeng had 16 points. Wang Zhizhi had 13 and 8 while Wang Shipeng scored 11. China shot 63% from the field, including 52% from threes.

China and Japan led the Group F with 3-0 and both have secured quarterfinal seeds. Taiwan, Kazakhstan and Lebanon will vie for the two remaining seeds in the group.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Asian Games - Close win over Kazakhstan keeps Taiwan in contention

Tien Lei's game-saving block and Chen Hsin-an two free-throws with 10.4 seconds to go helped Taiwan edge Kazakhstan 81-79 in the Doha Asian Games Monday night as Taiwan got the win it desperately needed and stayed in the contention of quarterfianl seeds.

Taiwan is now tied with South Korea 1-1 in the Group F. China and Japan, which surprised Lebanon 78-67, led the group with two wins.

Leading by as many as 12 points, Taiwan almost let the win slip away in the second half when its players kept missing free-throws. Taiwan was 8 of 17 free-throws in the game.

Fortunately the Kazakh couldn't find the basket all game, shooting 4 of 25 from threes, which usually is its specialty. Leading scorer Anton Ponomarev shot only 3 for 18 and scored 7 points.

Taiwan was once again led by Chen Hsin-an's 24 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Tsun Wen-din had 12 points and 14 boards to go with 5 blocks. Tien Lei had 19 points and 4 blocks. Yang Che-yi scored 11.

Dmitriy Korovnikov had 19 points and 8 rebounds to pace Kazakhstan, which dropped two straight. Yevgeniy Issakov had 14 while Rustam Yargaliyev had 16.

In other games, China defeated Uzbekistan 91-68.


Group E
Qatar 2-0
Jordan 2-0
South Korea 1-1
Iran 1-1
Syria 0-2
Bahrain 0-2

Group F
China 2-0
Japan 2-0
Taiwan 1-1
Lebanon 1-1
Kazakhstan 0-2
Uzbekistan 0-2

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Asian Games - Taiwan in dire straits after loss to Japan

Suddenly, the scene of Taiwan NT not making the quarterfinals in the Doha Asian Games is becoming a possible reality as it dropped the opening game in the preliminary round to Japan, 85-75.

Missing out on the oppotunity to take down Japan, Taiwan NT now needs to beat Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to ensure a quarterfianl berth. The second game vs. Kazakhstan becomes a must-win.

Four-time JBL MVP Kenichi Sako, who was brought back to the national team, sanked a deciding three-pointer to increase Japan's lead to nine points with 1:41 left. Takuma Watanabe added another three around the one-minute mark to ice the game.

Taiwan led 42-41 at the intermission but was out of synch in the second half. Its 2-3 zone was not able to contain the Japanese, who shot 11 for 25 behind the three-point line, and its offense was unorganized as usual. As Japan hit hard with a 23-13 third quarter, Taiwan soon found itself trailing by 15 with six minutes to go.

Chen Hsin-an's consecutive threes brought Taiwanese within the single-digit deficit and ignited a 11-2 run to cut the deficit to six with 4:27 remaining, when the score was 77-71. But that was the best it could do as Japan pulled the last dagger with Sako and Watanabe's threes.

Chen Hsin-an scored 18 of his team-high 24 points in the first half. And 13 of those 18 points came in the first quarter, when he made 3 of 4 threes and entertained the crowd with two power slams.

Center Tsun Wen-din had 12 points and 9 boards in an average game for him. Tien Lei collected 12 points and 16 rebounds in 40 minutes, but he shot only 5 for 22. Lin Chi-jay had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, although most of his shot selections were also questionable.

Taiwan head coach Lee Yun-kwang looked somewhat helpless in the game, playing only nine players in the game with only six of those on the court for more than 10 minutes.

Japan turned in a well-balanced performance in head coach Kimikazu Suzuki's national team debut. Backup point guard Shinsuke Kashiwagi led Japan with 16 points. Sako scored all of his 15 points from three-pointers, shooting 5 of 7 in the game. Eric McArthur had 12 points and 10 rebounds while Takuma Watanabe had 10.

In other games of the day, Lebanon pounded Uzbekistan 106-70 with Fadi El Khatib scoring a tournament-high 34 points.

Opening day scores:
Jordan beat Iran 62-59
Korea beat Bahrain 106-80
Qatar beat Syria 99-59

Friday, December 01, 2006

Correction about Lebanon coach

Correction about a mistake in my last article: Paul Coughter was not brought back to coach the Lebanese NT in the Asian Games in Doha.