Fireworks were expected in the bronze medal game of the FIBA Asia Basketball Championships 2015, but they came in a more subtle avatar. Japan and Iran engaged in a chess match, with each one craftily snaking back into the game after being on the back foot. But Iran had a secret weapon that would outdo Japan’s gutsy comeback.
The first quarter was as fast-paced as expected, but Iran would outpace Japan to take a 13-3 lead. The former defending champs appeared to be venting the ire of yesterday’s defeat to China on their present opponents. Iran displayed the sort of play that made them a dominant force in Asian basketball for the last 8 years, with Bahrami scoring 16 points. the quarter ended with Iran leading 22-10 Japan.
Japan showed a lot more spirit in the 2nd quarter, cutting the lead to 4 at one point. In an inspiring play, Tabuse stole the ball off the Iranian giant Haddadi and passed to Matsui, who bucketed a 3. Matsui sunk 4 more threes to end the second quarter with Japan just a nose ahead, at 31-29 Iran.
Iranian star Bahrami landed a 3 in the first few seconds of the 3rd quarter to give Iran a lead, but Matsui’s sublime shooting equalized. Japan were indomitable, keeping a narrow lead in the face of a fierce Iranian offense and ended the quarter with a slight lead, at JAP 44-40 IRI.
The fourth quarter was a contender for the most exciting one of the tournament. Neither side was willing to give an inch, but Iran’s secret weapon – Bahrami, found his rhythm and landed 3 after 3, to give his side a 10 point lead. Iran’s defense was special, and Japan’s tireless charges were blunted. At the final buzzer, Iran were 5 ahead at 68-63 Japan.
Iran take bronze and will go through to next year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. With their fourth place finish, Japan will hope to avenge this loss in the tournament.