For 26 minutes, Taiwan NT played solid defense against Iran and was on the verge of pulling off a big upset in Wuhan. However, Samad Bahrami came to the rescue and Taiwan NT went out of synch in the last 14 minutes, ending up with a 12-point loss.
Taiwan was able to stay with the Iranians early as both sides couldn’t seem to find the basket and Taiwan playing aggressive and tenacious defense against its opponents, especially 7-2 center Hamed Haddadi.
Taiwan used speed to its advantage in an 11-1 run in the third quarter to make the score 30-20. With 2:08 left in the quarter, Haddadi, who finished with eight points and 18 rebounds, was out of the game after committing his fourth foul.
“That was when we started to feel we could win the game…until Bahrami took over,” said center Wu Tai-hao, who had a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds.
Bahrami, a 6-6 forward who recovered from an injury, scored 11 of his 18 points in the quarter and led Iran to regain the lead, 32-31, at the end of the third period.
Taiwan never recovered from the slump. With 2:10 left in the game, Iran took a 10-point lead.
Both teams failed to shoot the ball well. Taiwan shot a miserable 21 percent from the field and Iran was no much better at 33 percent as both sides blamed it on the Chinese organizers, who gave the teams used balls for practice but new balls in competitions.
Players described the new balls as slippery and said it was very hard to get a grip of the ball in the act of shooting and dribbling.
Taiwan’s Lin Chih-chieh had eight points, but shot 0-for-7 from three. Taiwan and Iran shot a combined 5-for-47 from three-point territory. Center Tseng Wen-ting scored three points on 1-for-10 shooting. Chen Hsin-an had seven points.
Taiwan was outrebounded by Iran 60-27 but the main reason it could stay with Iran, aside from defense, was its strategy to draw body contact. The decision paid dividends as Taiwan was 11-of-13 from the free-throw line. Iran only made four out of 10 attempts.
Local media lamented the loss but praised the team for its fighting spirit.
In some way, the tournament was a brand new start for Taiwan NT, which hired former NBA coach Bob Hill as its technical advisor and named Chou Jun-san, who did not have any head-coaching experience, as its new head coach.
Personally, I think former Taiwan NT head coach Chung Kwang-suk, a South Korean, did well. Under Chung, Taiwan NT played its best zone defense in years and finished fifth place two years ago. The CTBA’s decision to stop hiring foreign head coaches was a pity.
However, since the decision has been made. I wish Hill, Chou and Taiwan NT do well in the tournament and beyond.