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