Iran def. Philippines 81-73
Samad Nikkhah Bahrami (21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) and Sajjad Mashayekhi (19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), IRI: Both Bahrami and Mashayekhi doubled up on their scoring averages in order to make up for Haddadi’s absence. It definitely worked as they dominated in the pick and roll. Bahrami used his size and experience while Mashayekhi kept leaving defenders in the dust with his quickness.
Arsalan Kazemi (11 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks), IRI
Even with Haddadi’s absence, Iran’s other big men are no joke. Almost all of them serve the same roll of setting bonecrushing screens, making themselves available under the basket, secure rebounds and play tough defense. Kazemi led that charge as he did a little bit of everything. His activity and size was really hard to match.
Christian Standhardinger (30 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals), PHI
Speaking of big men, Standhardinger utterly dominated. Even against and extremely tough Iran frontline, it looked like he could have any shot he wanted under the basket. This proves once again that his skillset with his size is just hard to play against. And it’s not like he dominated the ball, either. Most of his points come off rolls, cuts in the paint and offensive rebounds. It was a lot of hustle and a lot of bravery to keep banging with Iran’s bruisers.
Scottie Thompson (5 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 steal) and Gabe Norwood (2 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists), PHI
These two guys didn’t really light up the stat sheet but their effort should be commended. Norwood tried his hardest to contain Bahrami. I’d say he was successful for the most part as he made it tough for the Iranian superstar to get his shots off. As for Thompson, it was a relatively good seniors’ national team debut. He provided great energy, grabbed rebounds and defended well. He even hit a three on the move and played really well at the point guard position for a stretch, two things he has struggled with in his PBA career.
- I think Haddadi not playing meaningful minutes really wrecked Coach Yeng Guiao’s game plan. He talked about the importance of guarding the guy, loaded up on bigs and even tapped Standhardinger as the naturalized player primarily for that purpose. I didn’t see any news outlets report on even the possibility of him missing this game. It seems like Iran got one up over the Philippines by keeping everyone in the dark.
- I thought Team Pilipinas’ defense was pretty solid throughout. They played tough, matched Iran’s physicality and challenged jumpers. They shot better for much of the game and even limited Iran’s three-point shooting to the 20’s for most of the game. They just unraveled a bit in the fourth quarter as Iran finally caught fire from deep and they kept breaking down the interior defense. Unfortunately, they were never frustrated or rattled and just stuck to their gameplan of running screens to get people open while the Philippines pretty much bled for points. However, ne positive was their transition defense. They didn’t really allow Iran to run even off turnovers. There was almost always one or two guys back on defense to stop easy buckets. In fact, there were more than a few times that one Iranian player would break away and miss an easy layup just because one or two Filipinos ran back and challenged the shot. That kind of effort should be applauded.
- The guards had a visibly hard time guarding Mashayekhi. He would get free and get to the rim almost at will. Alex Cabagnot would keep getting stuck on screens while Paul Lee just did not have the foot speed to keep up with him. Thompson was probably the only one who could keep in step. Add in the fact that the Philippines’ most productive big men in this game weren’t shot blockers (Standhardinger and Beau Belga), and you have a recipe for disaster. That’s one thing I think Yeng Guiao will have to take note in the future – the lack of a lockdown defender at the guard spot who can come in and shut the opposing perimeter player down.
- I mentioned before the game that three-point shooting would be key, especially with the big men. That never really materialized as both guards and bigs kept clanking wide open threes leading to a paltry 5/28 clip (good for 17.86%). If they shot closer to their previous average (around 30%) then this might have been a different game entirely. Unfortunately, the combination of limited practice time, several new faces, an unfamiliar court and Iran’s defense did them in. That last point in particular was apparent as their combination of length and speed made it hard for the Philippines’ smaller guards to get clean looks off. They could instantly challenge initially-open looks.
- Iran’s bigs were also a huge problem with their combination of length, strength and heft. As I mentioned earlier, they all pretty much serve the exact same role but they all do it extremely well. Standhardinger and Belga were really the only ones who could match up as everyone else was pretty much non-existent production-wise. Raymond Almazan and Poy Erram in particular couldn’t really provide much with Iran’s heft inside the paint. That also affected their badly needed shot blocking as they just could not get into position to help.
- From this game alone, Yeng Guiao might have a few issues with his point guard situation. Lee is just be too slow to play that spot anymore. He had his moments, especially at the start of the third when he got to the rim in back-to-back possessions, but that was it. Cabagnot didn’t have a sterling debut either. He had primary facilitator duties but he couldn’t really get the team organized, understandable given an unfamiliar system. Thompson though was surprisingly effective when he was given ball handling duties. That stretch of him playing the one was probably when Team Pilipinas was at their most fluid offensively. He made good reads, organized the team and pretty much took the pressure off Cabagnot and let him play off-ball. In a way, it resembles the way Coach Leo Austria would use Chris Ross to play with Cabagnot. I thought Thompson would only be there as an “Abueva-replacement” so to speak but he showed he can be a lot more. Playing him more at point guard is definitely something to look at and might prove beneficial to Cabagnot and Lee’s play.
- It wasn’t a triumphant return for Marcio Lassiter who only had 4 points on 1/7 shooting from deep. He also struggled with playmaking duties as Iran was all over him. One thing he did do well was play solid defense. It was one of the reasons why Behnam Yakhchali only scored 7 points after averaging 15.5 in his first two games. The lack of prep time really came into play here as Lassiter is a guy you really have to set up to get going. He’s an effective catch-and-shoot guy but they’ll need to look at running him off screens more often to either get open for a three-pointer, or allow him to create.
- A couple of little positive things: 1) Team Pilipinas took good care of the ball with just 14 turnovers. And as mentioned earlier, even when they did turn it over, they were quick to run back in transition. They just had a few key ones in the last period. 2) Even with the size difference, they kept in step rebounding-wise. Once again, Iran managed to wear them down in the fourth as they grabbing rebound after rebound. That was also when Standhardinger lost a bit of steam.
- I know we’re probably sick of moral victories (I am, too) but this was a really good game played by the Philippines considering the number of new faces and extremely limited time to prepare. Iran just proved the better team with their talent, experience, chemistry and a bit of mind games with Haddadi’s injury. Luckily, it wasn’t a must-win game even though it would have been nice to solidify their position in the top three with a win. This should serve as a valuable learning experience for Yeng Guiao and the rest of the team. I can definitely say that even with the loss, this “new era” ioffof to a pretty good start. #LabanPilipinas