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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Match Overview: Philippines versus Iran

The Philippines will face Iran in a Group E match in the 17th Asian Games men's basketball competition in Incheon, South Korea on September 25, 2014. Here is an overview of that match between Team Melli and Gilas Pilipinas.


Team Rosters

Iran

No.
Pos.
Height
Name
4
C
6'11"
Rouzbeh Arghavan
5
PG
5'11"
Sajjad Mashayekhi
6
SG
6'3"
Benham Yakhchali
7
PG
6'1"
Mahdi Kamrani
8
F
6'8"
Arman Zangeneh
9
PG
6'0"
Farid Aslani Haji Abadi
10
SG
6'4"
Hamed Afagh
11
PF
6'8"
Oshin Sahakian
12
C
6'11"
Ashgar Kardoust
13
SF
6'5"
Mohammad Jamshidi
14
SF
6'6"
Samad Nikkah Barahmi
15
C
7'2"
Hamed Haddadi

Philippines

No.
Pos.
Height
Name
4
PG
5'9"
Jim Alapag
5
PG
5'7"
LA Tenorio
6
SG
6'2"
Jeff Chan
7
W
6'3"
Jared Dillinger
8
W
6'1"
Gary David
9
F
6'5"
Ranidel De Ocampo
10
SF
6'4"
Gabe Norwood
11
C
6'11"
Marcus Douthit
12
C
6'10"
Junmar Fajardo
13
G
6'0"
Paul Lee
14
F
6'9"
Japeth Aguilar
15
PF
6'3"
Marc Pingris

Notable Absentees

Arsalan Kazemi(Iran)

6'7" small forward Arsalan Kazemi is absent in Iran's roster for the 17th Asian Games. It has been reported in the past however that Philippine coach Chot Reyes believes Iran is a better team without Kazemi, a view shared by former Iran and Philippines' coach Rajko Toroman, who is now coaching Jordan.

Hamad Sohrabnejad(Iran)

Iran will have to do with one less center as the 6'10" Hamad Sohrebnajad is noticeably absent from the Asian Games roster. Iran opted to replace him with a point guard in the roster. It will also be interesting to note that Iran does not have a reliable or tested back-up at power forward with Sohrabnejad's absence.

Jayson Castro(Philippines)

Asia's best point guard will not be competing for the Philippines in the 17th Asian Games due to injuries sustained in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. In his place will be Jared Dillinger, a 6'3" wing player. Castro will certainly be missed in this game. He led the Philippines in scoring in the Asian finals last year with 18 points and kept the Filipinos in most parts of that game. It will be interesting to see how the Philippines will adjust without him. 

Andray Blatche(Philippines)

Naturalized Filipino player Andray Blatche was declared ineligible to play in the Asian Games as he did not yet have the required three-year residency. Blatche was the Philippines' leading scorer and rebounder in the recent FIBA World Cup with averages of 21.2 points(2nd overall) and 13.8 rebounds(1st overall). He was also the most efficient player in Spain.

In his place will be Marcus Douthit, who led the Philippines in scoring and rebounding in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships in Manila with averages of 11.9 points 9.4 rebounds(tied for 2nd overall). He also led the tournament in blocks with 2 a game.

Starting Lineups

This will be the likely starting lineups for the Group E game on September 25, 2014. 

IRAN
Pos
PHILIPPINES
7'2" Hamed Haddadi
C
6'11" Marcus Douthit
6'8" Oshin Sahakian
PF
6'3" Jean Marc Pingris
6'6" Samad Nikkah Bahrami
SF
6'4" Gabe Norwood
6'4" Hamed Afagh
SG
6'2" Jeff Chan
6'1" Mahdi Kamrani
PG
5'7" LA Tenorio

Key Match-ups

Here are some interesting key match-ups to look out for in the game:

Hamed Haddadi versus Junmar Fajardo

In recent years, Hamed Haddadi have dominated Junmar Fajardo. This was evident in the finals of the 27th FIBA Asia Championships in Manila last year and earlier this year in the semifinals of the FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan. Since then, however, Fajardo has shown steady improvements and had a breakout performance in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain where he held his own against world class opposition including NBA players Luis Scola of Argentina and Gorgui Dieng of Senegal. In the first game of Group E competition, Fajardo tallied 12 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block playing a supporting role to Marcus Douthit. 

In the FIBA Asia Championship finals last year in Manila, Haddadi dominated with 29 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks to lead Iran to their 3rd title with an 85-71 victory. In the FIBA Asia Cup semifinals in Wuhan earlier this year, the 7'2 behemoth recorded 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocks as Iran won 76-55. In the World Cup, the former NBA benchwarmer had a respectable showing with 18.8 points(6th), 11.4 rebounds(2nd) and 1.2 blocks(11th).

We know that this may not be the primary match-up at center as Gilas will most likely start Marcus Douthit and let him play heavy minutes. It will be interesting however to see how Junemar Fajardo will hold the fort while Kuya Marcus gets his rest in stretches of the game. Fajardo dominated India's young frontline in the Philippines' first game but the experienced Iranian frontline will be an altogether different level of challenge.

Gabe Norwood versus Samad Nikkah Bahrami

Iranian team captain Samad Nikkhah Bahrami will be the Iranian's main perimeter threat and the unenviable task of defending him will definitely fall on the Philippines' best perimeter defender Gabe Norwood. It will be interesting to see how much success Norwood will have against defending Nikkah Bahrami who averaged 12.8 points to rank 11th in scoring in the 27th FIBA Asia Championships. In that tournament, the Iranian sharpshooter shot 47.6 from beyond the arc. Gilas must also be wary of his passing skills as he also ranked 6th in assists in the Asian championships with a 4.2 assists per games average. In the finals versus the Philippines, he tallied 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 7 assists as he ran rings around the Filipinos' defense.

In the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, the Iranian forward also ranked 11th in scoring with 16 points per game and 6th in assists with 4.4 dimes a contest. The 6'6" forward also shot an amazing 50% from three points and 40% overall.

LA Tenorio versus Mahdi Kamrani

The match-up at point guard will also be interesting. 6'1" Mahdi Kamrani led the Asians in assists per game last year with a 6.6 average. He also averaged 10.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in that tournament. He capped the respectable showing with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in the Finals when Iran defeated the Philippines. In the World Cup, he averaged 10.4 points, 2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.

Tenorio's experience in guarding bigger guards in Spain would come in handy as he tries to shadow Kamrani defensively while also running the Philippine offense.

Keys to a Philippine victory

What would it take to win for the Philippines? Here are some key points that will help the Philippines get a win over Iran.

Bigs must bring their A-game

Iran relies heavily on Hamed Haddadi and their frontline rotation. That rotation includes 6'8" Oshin Sahakian, adjudged as Asia's best power forward in the Asian Championships last year. Iran's frontline also lists a pair of 6'11 veteran centers in Rouzbeh Arghavan and Ashgar Kardoust. 

It is important to make life uncomfortable for the Iranian bigs especially Haddadi and Sahakian. Fajardo, Aguilar, Douthit, Pingris, and De Ocampo will have their hands full against Iran's formidable frontcourt. They must play their best to overcome this test.

Run, run, run!

The running game is a staple in Philippine basketball and will be an important key to victory against Iran. A fast game will also tire out the Iranians who rely on a short rotation. In the 2013 finals in Manila, 6 players logged 21 minutes or more. In the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain, 7 Iranians averaged at least 16 minutes a game.

The Philippines must do 2 things to be able to play a running game: control the defensive boards and run their full-court press to perfection.

Shoot Sharply

In the games that the Philippines lost to Iran, the 3-point shooting was noticeably sour. In the 5th FIBA Asia Cup semifinal in Wuhan, the Pinoy shooters shot only 14%(3/21) and in the 2013 Asian finals, they shot 29%(10/34). Jeff Chan who was 3rd in 3 point shooting percentage in the Asian games shot only 1 out of 5 in the Asian finals last year. Chan's outside sniping was largely responsible for Gilas' strong start against India yesterday.

Keep 'em Guessing

Group B teams in the recent FIBA World Cup had difficulties putting out the Philippines' with Croatia, Argentina, and Puerto Rico needing to rely on crucial breaks of the game to win. One reason why it is difficult to play the Philippines is their balanced attack. Scoring can come from anybody on the squad. In the 2013 Asian championships, 11 of the players on the Philippine roster averaged at least 4 points and only Junemar Fajardo did not have a double digit scoring night in that tournament. A balanced ofensive to keep the Iranians guessing would do good for the Philippine five.

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