|Saturday – July 12th, 2014|
Venue: Wuhan Sports Centre Gymnasium, Wuhan (China). Entry is Paid.
Karan Madhok, Wuhan, China: A day ago, India’s basketball Head Coach Scott Flemming, troubled by India’s lack of any exposure games in the run-up to the 5th FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan (China), had lamented that the team would have to learn the way it plays on the fly. On Saturday, in their opening encounter against Japan, Flemming’s solemn premonition held true: nervous from the start, India failed to stamp its identity through large courses of the game as Japan recovered from a slow start to blow India out, 75-52.
India’s first game was marred by turnovers from the start, as India gave away several easy opportunities to their opponents. India committed 23 turnovers, and Japan were only happy to make the most of easy fastbreak points.
While India started the game off well enough on the defensive end, they struggled to keep up the same intensity after the first quarter. India were down by just two points to Japan when the first 10 minutes were up, but Japan started to exploit India’s defensive weaknesses in the perimeter to hit multiple open threes, while India failed to convert their open shots on the other end.
It was in the second quarter that Japan’s superstar and the tallest player on court – Joji Takeuchi – took over. Takeuchi was unstoppable as he dominated the post and finished the game with 13 points and nine rebounds in limited but highly effective minutes.
With the result of the game all but decided, India began to play some positive basketball in the final period. Amrit Pal Singh started to convert the opportunities inside that India had been missing earlier to finish with a game-high 15 points along with eight rebounds. Coach Scott Flemming rotated all 12 of his players regularly to give them all exposure and experience, and helped them get a feel of the game before the game ended.
A major positive that India can take away from this game is that, despite the 23 point loss, India outrebounded their opponents 36-31, showing immense hustle but lacking the ability to cap off their hard work with results.
For India, getting that little bit of experience down to the last player and staying optimistic about all the positives will be essential, as things won’t get any easier for them looking ahead. India has their next game tomorrow (Sunday) against the hosts and one of the tournament’s favourites, China. China won their first game on Friday against Indonesia 105-37 and will be hearing the home crowd’s support with every ebb and flow of the game.
Coach Flemming spoke to Ekalavyas in an exclusive after the game, and discussed how the team could be more competent in their next game against China.
“At this point, we can talk about what we can do to stop China,” Flemming said, “But a lot of it will be about what we need to do better. We need take care of the basketball, not give into their pressure. We need to not give up so many second shots, we gave up too many offensive rebounds. And we’re fouling a lot, but a lot of it is just being out of position. So those are the three areas.”
“They’re long and they’re tall, and they’re at home. But hopefully, we step up. We got our first game out of the way.”
Final score: Japan (Joji Takeuchi 13) beat India (Amrit Pal Singh 15) 75-52 (15-13, 23-11, 22-10, 15-18). Box Score
Play by Play
16.43: Karan Madhok
Japan 75 India 52. Despite some stretches of good defense, India couldn’t defend Japan from the perimeter and committed too many turnovers throughout the course of the game. India will have their work cut out for them tomorrow against hosts and China, who are one of the tournament’s favourites. Hopefully we see an improved effort, at least. See you all tomorrow!
16.33: Gopalakrishnan R
After this opening loss, India will find tomorrow’s match even tougher, as it takes on the formidable hosts China at 5:00 pm IST. As difficult as it may be, India needs to forget about today and simply play better tomorrow. Look forward to having you guys tomorrow evening as well for India vs China, when the world’s two most populous nations lock horns. No Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai tomorrow for sure!
16.12: Gopalakrishnan R
The one statistic where India has enjoyed the advantage in this otherwise forgettable game is rebounding, India has 36 boards (combined from both ends of the floor) compared to Japan’s 31. This will make no difference to the outcome though, as Japan will surely win this game by at least a 20 point margin.
16.12: Karan Madhok
Palpreet Singh Brar scores from the outside, and comes back on the very next position to attack the basket, earning two fouls. He misses the first, scores the second. Japan can now just run the clock down to ensure the victory.
16.09: Karan Madhok
Amrit Pal Singh continues to play hard till the end. He now has 15 points – leading both teams in points. Jiju Takeuchi, Japan’s star, has been on the bench for a while.
16.08: Gopalakrishnan R
India also has only 7 team assists so far as compared to 15 for Japan. It surely shows the the Indian half court offense isn’t settled into the right positions and not moving the ball well. That can’t be a good sign. Let’s hope this is just a case of first match jitters.
16.06: Karan Madhok
India is playing better this quarter, but that’s probably because Japan has taken its foot off the accelerator. But just as I type that, another couple of silly turnovers give Japan easy opportunities on the other end. Japan is now leading 71-45
16.04: Karan Madhok
Couple of nice moves by Amrit Pal Singh has made him the first Indian player in double digits today (11 points). India is still down by 20 with four minutes to go
16.02: Karan Madhok
Fourth quarter, and Coach Flemming continues to rotate the players a lot. India is down 62-39 and it’s probably more important now to get as many players game-time experience together as possible for the next games. Not that it would’ve changed the result, but India playing with a hurt Joginder Singh was a factor. He’s India’s starting PG and knows Flemming’s system well. The ankle injury limited his minutes today.
15.57: Karan Madhok
Grewal follows it up with an airball from the three-point line on the other corner.
15.56: Karan Madhok
Fourth quarter begins with India down 60-34. Narender Grewal gives India something to cheer about with a three-pointer to open up the period.
15.55: Gopalakrishnan R
India has played all 12 of its players in a bid to find the right combination and get India back into this match. India trails by 26 points with 10 mins of game left. Hope it can mount a comeback just like Japan did against India last year. If there ever is a chance to pay them back by the same coin, it is now!
15.54: Karan Madhok
Palpreet Singh – who starred for India at the U18 FIBA ABC in Mongolia a couple of years ago – is getting some burn. He’s a big man with a decent jumpshot, but is moving very awkwardly on court.
15.51: Gopalakrishnan R
India has turned over the ball as many as 20 times as compared to 9 times by Japan.
15.50: Karan Madhok
Yadwinder loses the ball hustling to keep it in bounds – back to Japan. Nice to see Yadu continue his hustle, but he has been substituted out and Amjyot checks back in
15.49: Karan Madhok
At least the cheers are going for India! The Chinese home crowd is backing India with every nice play and made shot. Unfortunately, there haven’t been too many in this third quarter.
15.48: Karan Madhok
This should’ve been a closer game for India, really. An encouraging start, but Japan is looking very fluid right now. Joji hustles India over for another offensive rebound.
15.46: Karan Madhok
That’s the third three for Japan in the period, this one by Okada. 26 point lead.
15.45: Karan Madhok
Japan are looking like a completely different team offensively, and India have no answer for their outside shooting. Japan has now taken a 55-32 lead.
15.44: Karan Madhok
Amjyot Singh takes and misses a three, gets his own offensive rebounds, drives in to create for Pethani, who misses a close layup. On the other end, Japan score again to stretch lead to 49-28, their biggest of the game. Amjyot’s aggressiveness finally reaps a reward: he finishes a nice tip in and goes to the line with the ‘and-1′ foul
15.44: Gopalakrishnan R
India sure doesn’t seem to have learnt any lessons from last edition’s FIBA Asia Champioship, despite repeating many players from last year. It’s really unfortunate that the pre-tournament exposure games got cancelled. Playing warm up games could have made a world of a difference in preventing many of our first half mistakes!
15.42: Karan Madhok
India is having troubles with the pace of the game – at that speed, they are finding it difficult to finish even the easy opportunities right now
15.39: Karan Madhok
Japan score the first five points of the second half and this game is getting out of hand. Japan now has a 19 point lead.
15.33: Karan Madhok
This is what I imagine Coach Scott Flemming will be talking to the team about at halftime:
1. Keep up the good defense
2. Be more patient offensively to make careful passes, but still be quick enough so Japan’s defense doesn’t get too much time to set up.
3. Find a way to limit the easy opportunities that Joji Takeuchi (13 points) is getting. He’ll get his points anyways, but India has to make it tough for him to get the ball in easy positions.
India is still clearly very nervous and several silly mistakes showed that. Down 14 and facing an opening loss, does India have enough to make a big comeback in the second half?
15.30: Gopalakrishnan R
Pic: National Anthem plays for India.
15.28: Karan Madhok
Japan’s Ono hit a three with the shot clock running down to give his team a 38-24 lead. Seconds later, the halftime buzzer rings and India go to their locker rooms down by 14
15.28: Gopalakrishnan R
Pic: Team India warms up before the game. The three players in the middle are Riken Pethani, Prasanna Venkatesh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi.
15.24: Karan Madhok
More bad passes. Joginder Singh turns the ball over and Joji Takeuchi gets an easy layup on the other end. Amrit Pal Singh with a nice back to the basket bucket. But Joji comes back with two more. Japan up 32-24
15.19: Karan Madhok
Pethani is stepping up for India on both ends, but really, Joji Takeuchi is just unstoppable. He scored two tough layups in a row, the second of which got him an And-1
15.17: Karan Madhok
More signs of nerves from India, as they miss a lot of easy looks. Rikin Pethani finally converts an offensive board. Still a neck to neck game. We’re lucky that Japan isn’t playing their best game either – they pushed Asia champions Iran to the brink before a close loss yesterday.
15.15: Karan Madhok
Awful passing by India – and they are all to be blamed at this point. Game is still close because of India’s work at the defensive end. But offensively, India has to make the passing crisper.
15.14: Karan Madhok
Jojo Takeuchi is a monster for Japan, securing offensive rebounds and hitting the outside shot. Impressive footwork for a near 7-footer
15.10: Karan Madhok
Three pointer by Amjyot Singh, and the game is tied at 18 all
15.09: Karan Madhok
Jump shot by Jojo Takeuchi, Japan’s biggest player, gives Japan a 5 point lead. On the other end, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi calmly sinks two free throws to make it a 3 point game again.
15.08: Karan Madhok
Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh are exceptionally skilled with their back to the basket, but both are slightly slow in the post. A little more fine tuning will make both of them unstoppable. Amjyot has a decent outside shot too.
15.07: Karan Madhok
A year ago, India played vs. Japan at the FIBA Asia Championship in Manila, and were neck to neck for 36 of the 40 minutes, so close to pulling a big upset. Will we finally complete that upset this year?
15.05: Karan Madhok
The first quarter ends with Japan holding a 15-13 lead. India has played great defense but has been nervous on the offensive end. Still, a couple of big threes have kept India in the game so far.
15.04: Karan Madhok
Careless turnovers by India. They are very determined on defense but nervous offensively. Timeout called. Coach Scott Flemming told me yesterday that this team hasnt played together in practice games at all so will be learning as they go in today’s game. Seems to be that ‘learning’ phase right now. Still, the defensive effort is encouraging. Japan are sure to respond strongly after this timeout.
14.58: Karan Madhok
Don’t think Japan were expecting India to play such frantic defense. India steals the ball again, and Japan is stuck on 6. But on the other end, India’s offense is sputtering too. Japan finally make it 8-6 behind a layup by Tanaka.
14.57: Karan Madhok
Narender Grewal will be the first Indian to go to the free-throw line and a chance to give an early lead. Coach Scott Flemming sends in Amjyot Singh – India has already rotated nine players in a matter of minutes
14.54: Karan Madhok
Both teams going through an offensive drought, and neither has been able to put points up on the board for several possessions.
14.53: Karan Madhok
Japan turning the ball over a lot early. India and Japan tied at 6-6 about three minutes early in the first quarter
14.52: Karan Madhok
Amrit Pal Singh comes in with two strong plays at both ends of the floor. A hook shot and then nice defense to cause a Japan miss.
14.52: Karan Madhok
Japan getting to the basket easy but couldn’t finish it. Yadwinder Singh loses the ball on the other end, handing it right back. Another turnover, as there’s an offensive foul on Japan’s Takumi.
14.50: Karan Madhok
Nice lay-up by Vishesh Bhriguvanshi. The crowd gathered here is decidedly pro-India today, as the home crowd have a long rivalry vs. Japan
14.49: Karan Madhok
Yadwinder Singh gets India on the board with a tip in for the team’s first points
14.40: Karan Madhok
I’m getting chills at ‘Jana Gana Mana’ plays before tip off!
14.39: Karan Madhok
Team India just got introduced as they ran out to the court. Here is the full roster: http://wuhan2014.fibaasia.net/Team_Details.aspx?id=259
14.35: Karan Madhok
Team India warms up pre-game. T-minus 15 minutes. Team India is a bit of a mystery to most of the other mediapersons attended here. But many people are indeed impressed by the size of this team – Amrit Pal Singh, Amjyot Singh, Palpreet Singh, and Rikin Shantilal are all 6-foot 8 or taller.
13.49: Karan Madhok
Hi everyone! This is Karan Madhok checking in from the Wuhan Sports Center from Wuhan, China for the 5th FIBA Asia Cup. India’s first game of the tournament against Japan is set to tip off in less than an hour. I will be bringing you live commentary from the venue as the action unfolds!
19.49: Gopalakrishnan R
Thank you for joining us! Our columnist Karan Madhok is in Wuhan, China and will begin the live updates tomorrow before scheduled tip off.