Japan came close but lost. Photo: FIBA
Japan came close to going to the gold medal game. For a little over three quarters, they battled the Philippines tooth and nail. While the final score, 81-70, in favor of the Philippines, doesn’t begin to tell the whole story, it does reveal their young team’s flaws.
Makoto Hiejima and Joji Takeuchi played solid basketball but it wasn’t enough for Japan to advance to the gold medal.
Hiejima posted a game high 28 points, seven rebounds and two assists, while his teammate added 18 points, 16 boards and one assist. Takotoshi disappeared again scoring only four points. Point guard Yuta Tabuse was the closest bit of help as he chipped in nine points.
It’s all right when you have two studs taking charge but not against a deeper opponent like the Philippines.
If they wanted to win the match, we previously pointed out that they needed to do a few other things.
1. Get to the free throw line. They did this time around, attempting 29 free throws and making 24 of them while the Filipinos were awarded only six.
2. Limit those turnovers. They had fewer turnovers this time around but the Philippines still managed seven steals that they converted into eight fastbreak points.
3. Score more against the second highest scoring team in the tournament. Japan scored more points in the paint, 34-30, while their bench evened it out, 11-11.
However, Tab Baldwin’s starters scored a whopping 70 points. Japan’s starting unit managed only 59 with only two of them scoring in double figures.
Unfortunately for Japan, it was the Philippines that had a field day as they shot the ball much better - 46% to 36%. It isn’t enough to win the battle of the boards, which they did, 41-37, you need to convert. They had fewer field goal attempts, 63 to the Philippines’ 68.
The three-point shot, a staple of Japan’s offense, deserted them. They missed all 11 attempts. In contrast, the Philippines was 13-31. Dondon Hontiveros drilled in six treys that erased deficits and eventually broke the backs of the Japanese. If Hiejima and Takeuchi cancelled out Andray Blatche's and Jayson Castro’s production, that third scorer would have come in handy. That’s where the Philippines has had that advantage. For the most part of the tournament, that third scorer has been Terrence Romeo. In this game, Dondon Hontiveros busted Japan’s zone wide open.
Furthermore, as both teams battled to a stand still after three quarters, it came down to defense and execution. With not many other scoring options for Japan, Gabe Norwood was able to key in on Hiejima. Just as he had that crucial stop on Korea’s Kim Min Goo in 2013, he had two crucial stops in the fourth period, one where he deflected a pass by Takeuchi and a block on Hiejima.
They had no one who could body up with Andray Blatche. Atsuya Ota and Gaku Arao really couldn’t contain Blatche who can play both inside and outside.
In the clutch, the Philippines made 9-16 shots from the field while Japan crumbled going 4-12 on the floor. Four of the Philippines’ field goals came from three-point territory.
There’s that big game experience that former Philippine national head coach Chot Reyes has espoused. The Philippines has lots of players who have played huge matches with a lot of international experience; the Japanese do not.
There’s promise for Japan. Think of this where the Philippines was in 2011, finishing fourth. It would be worth watching where they go and how their talented youngsters who aren’t lined up in this tournament contribute for the long haul.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.