POWERHOUSE Iran woke up from a first-quarter slumber with a dizzying offense and swarming defense as it routed Chinese Taipei, 79-60, on Saturday night to barge into the 27th Fiba Asia men’s basketball finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Drawing loud cheers from the Iranian fans seated at the general admission section, Iran went on a dizzying 17-0 bomb in the second period to turn what until had been a close game into a full-blown rout.
From there, the former two-time Asian champions combined their sleek offense with relentless defensive pressure all throughout the game on the way to earning a trip back to the championship round since the 2009 edition.
Chinese-Taipei, coming off a confidence-building 96-78 quarterfinals upset victory over deposed champion China, actually took a 23-14 first quarter lead.
But the Taiwanese struggled offensively from there, going just four-of-24 from beyond the arc, allowing the Iranians to turn the tables around.
Veteran playmaker Mahdi Kamrami led Iran’s march to the final with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists while NBA veteran big man Hamed Hadadi came away with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Iran coach Mehmed Becirovic said he only had three simple instructions for his team going into the semifinal game: no easy shots and no transition baskets for Taipei, and control of the boards.
The Iranians responded to Becirovic with a tremendous effort that already rewarded the West Asian basketball kings an automatic slot to the Fiba World Cup in Spain next year.
“We didn’t start the game well, but later, we came back with the right energy,” said the Slovenian coach, who, just last July steered the Iranians to an eight-game title sweep of the William Jones Cup.
Iran’s tall frontline controlled the boards with impunity as evidenced by their sizeable 48-26 advantage.
“We knew Taipei is a very good team. They played well in the tournament. After all, they beat China (in the quarterfinals),” added Becirovic.
Iran 79 - Kamrani 19, Hadadi 17, Sahakian 13, Afagh 10, Kardoust 8, Nikkhah Bahrami 8, Davoudichegani 2, Jamshidijafarabadi 2, Davari 0, Sorabnejad 0, Arghavan 0.
Chinese Taipei 60 - Davis 16, Chen Shih-chieh 11, Tseng Wen-ting 6, Tsai Wen-cheng 6, Lu Cheng-ju 5, Hung Chih-shan 5, Tien Lei 4, Lin Chih-chieh 3, Yang Chin-min 2, Creighton 2, Lee Hsueh-lin 0.
Quarterscores: 14-23; 41-35; 60-39; 79-60.