The 2013 FIBA Asia tournament began on Thursday as teams begin qualifying for next year's FIBA World Cup in Spain. The top three finishers out of the 15 teams will qualify for that tournament and be one step closer to an Olympic berth.
Thursday's 90-point margin of victory for Hamed Haddadi's Iran sqaud marked the most incredible final score, but every contest carried equal weight for teams focused on advancing to the second round of the tournament.
The top three from each round-robin group move on, so Group B is essentially just playing for fun this round as all three teams will advance due to some snafus best explained by the tournament's Wikipedia page:
Lebanon originally qualified for the tournament after placing second in the 2013 West Asian Basketball Championship. However, after the country's basketball federation was suspended indefinitely by FIBA Asia due to unresolved conflicts within the country's national basketball federation they were replaced by fourth-placer Iraq.
But Iraq declined due to lack of preparation, and FIBA Asia instead tapped the United Arab Emirates to replace them. However, the United Arab Emirates also declined the invitation for the same reason, and after FIBA's confirmation of the Lebanese federation's suspension, FIBA Asia decided not to take in any more replacements, reducing the total number of teams to 15.
Chinese Taipei vs. Jordan -- Chinese Taipei defeated Jordan, 91-87, thanks to a big game from Lin Chih-Chieh. Lin scored 27 points on 7-of-13 shooting and dished out a team-high five assists to lead the way for Taipei. The team scored just 38 points in the paint, but limited Jordan to 28 points in a perimeter-centric game. Former Tulane standout Quincy Davis III added 18 points and 11 rebounds as Chinese Taipei's naturalized citizen.
Jordan's Jimmy Baxter led all scorer with 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting, but Jordan converted just 12-of-28 shots from beyond the arc and could not keep pace with Taipei. Baxter never made waves in the NBA after coming out of South Florida in 2004, but it's clear he's doing well as a naturalized citizen of Jordan.
Philippines vs. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- The Philippines picked up an unsurprising victory over Saudi Arabia on Thursday, though the 76-68 final score was closer than originally anticipated. The Philippines, a country fast becoming known for its love of basketball, was led by a well-rounded effort in which all 12 of their players scored a basket.
Saudi Arabia attempted to combat the Philippines' all-around play with a big game from Aymam Almuwallad, but his 4-for-9 shooting performance from beyond the arc wasn't enough to carry his teammates.
Chinese Taipei will take on Saudi Arabia Friday before Jordan tips off with the Philippines.
Qatar vs. Japan -- Qatar edged Japan, 75-74, with a lopsided 22-13 effort in the final stanza, including a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter. Kosuke Kanamaru led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting to help Japan overcome spotty shooting from the field (27-of-64 FGs).
Qatar posted even worse shooting numbers (24-of-66 FGs), but Daoud Musa managed to produce an impressive 15-rebound, 12-point double-double in the loss. Former NBA player Jarvis Hayes added 20 points and six rebounds for the victorious team.
Japan will take on Hong Kong in Friday's action while Qatar waits to take on Hong Kong in Saturday's pool-play finale.
Iran vs. Malaysia -- Iran held Malaysia to 9-of-47 shooting, forced them into 34 turnovers and emerged with an almost unbelievable 115-25 victory. The Iranians opened the game on a 42-3 run, and the 90-point victory was marked by a dominant stint from NBA free agent Hamed Haddadi.
The former player for the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds in 13 minutes for Iran. Hong Hoong Gan was the only Malaysian to score in double figures, adding 11 points to the scoreboard for the losing team.
China vs. Korea -- Yi Jianlian poured in 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for China, but it wasn't enough to overcome a solid team effort from Korea. China was ranked No. 11 in the world following the 2012 Olympics, but Joo-sung Kim -- the MVP during the 2012 Korean League season -- led Korea with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the 63-59 win.
The Chinese team had a couple of disappointing efforts from their players with NBA experience. Sun Yue finished the game with just two points on 1-of-5 shooting in 27 minutes while aging big man Zhizhi Wang came off the bench to contribute four points in three minutes.
China will get a chance to bounce back on Friday in a matchup against Malaysia while Korea will take on Iran.
Bahrain vs. India -- Bahrain was able to pull off an upset over India in the first round, though the victory for the world's 75th-ranked club didn't come easy. Bahrain's Mohammed Kawaid hit a big shot from beyond the arc with 13 seconds left to play to force overtime before teammate Ahmed Ismaeel closed the game out with seven points in the extra period.
Kawaid scored 25 points to lead Bahrain to their win, but India's Narender Grewal matched his effort with 25 of his own in a losing effort. C.J. Giles, who played at Kansas and Oregon before eventually becoming a naturalized citizen of Bahrain, finished the game with 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots for the winning club.
Bahrain will play Kazakhstan on Friday while India gets a chance to redeem itself against Thailand.
Thailand vs. Kazakhstan -- The Kazakhs were expected to pick up an easy win over unranked Thailand in their first game of pool play, and did precisely that, cruising to an 81-67 victory. 6'9 center Anton Ponomarev led Kazakhstan with 21 points and 13 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive end of the floor.
Thailand's top scorer was Darunpong Apiromvilaichai with 16 points, the team's only double-digit effort. Apiromvilaichai was disappointing from beyond the arc, however, going just 1-for-8 from 3-point territory in the loss. Apiromvilaichai's twin brother, Darongpan, was second on the team with nine points off the bench.
Kazakhstan will face Bahrain on Friday while Thailand takes on India.