Haddadi, Iran spoils Smart Gilas’ finals hopes
HSINCHUANG, Taiwan—The length and superiority of Hamed Haddadi finally caught up with Smart Gilas Pilipinas.
A plodding behemoth at 7-foot-2, Haddadi was an immovable roadblock in the paint as Fiba Asia champion Iran demolished the Philippines, 78-59, in the semifinals of the William Jones Cup Saturday night at the Hsinchuang Gymnasium.
The figures put up by the Memphis Grizzlies center—36 points on 14-of-24 shooting, eight rebounds, five blocks and three assists—were enough to single-handedly break the spirits of the Filipinos, who lost a reliable point-maker in JV Casio and suffered fatigue after eight straight games.
Up by only 10, Haddadi converted a three-point play and Oshin Sahakian sank his free throws that increased the lead, 54-33, late in the third period.
From there, it was cruise control for the back-to-back Fiba Asia champions, silencing a thicket of overseas Filipino workers behind the Smart Gilas bench.
The Iranian victory, a payback on the 73-59 defeat Smart Gilas inflicted in the eliminations, set up a titular clash against Korea tonight.
As for the Nationals, who missed JV Casio due to a knee injury, a redeeming match for third awaits them opposite host Chinese Taipei.
“We couldn’t handle him (Haddadi),” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman. “Maybe it’s the best game of his life. I was his coach and he never played in that level.”
But more than Haddadi’s impressive stat line, the Filipinos were simply tired after getting beaten off the boards, 44-21, shot 38 percent and had fewer assists, 4-16.
“Never in the history of Smart Gilas that we had four assists. We have no alternate in the point guard position and the energy of my big guys were terrible,” said Toroman.
“They (Iranians) simply dominated us in all parts of the game and we
couldn’t do anything,” he added.
Nursing knee injuries, shooting guard Hamed Afagh and playmaker Mahdi Kamrani watched the carnage from their seats while star forward Samad Nikkah Bahrami didn’t show up in the tournament at all.
Haddadi, a two-time Fiba Asia MVP, threw his weight around rim right from the start, rummaging his way to 12 points in an 18-3 run bridging the second period for a 31-14 spread.
“Haddadi’s condition is getting better and better since the first game,” said Iran coach Veselin Matic, whose team goes for a “three-peat” in the finals today. “We’re an entirely different team.”
Limited to a single field goal, Douthit attacked the hole that broke the scoreless stretch. Mac Baracael then converted a runner and Marcio Lassiter finished the break after Chris Lutz stripped Haddadi as Smart Gilas cut the deficit to 11.
Lassiter drained a three and Barroca beat the buzzer with a layup, pulling the Filipinos within 27-36, at halftime.
The Iranians actually got off to an auspicious start, 9-2, before Mark Barroca drilled a couple jumpers and drove past Haddadi to keep the Filipinos within range.
Jarod Stevenson, Korea’s naturalized shooting guard, delivered 10 of his game-high 28 points in extra time as Korea survived Chinese Taipei and the highly partisan crowd, 90-85, to advance to the finals for the sixth time since winning it all in 1999.
“I’m used to it. I have a reputation of making tough shots at crunchtime throughout my career,” said Stevenson, whose Korean name is Moon Tae Jong.
In the classification match, Daisuke Noguchi scored 24 points and Sean Hinkley added 14 and 13 rebounds as Japan dumped Malaysia, 98-53, to arrange a duel for fifth place against Jordan today.