TIANJIN (FIBA Asia Championship) - When Iran won the title in the 2007 FIBA Asia Championship at Tokushima, one question remained unanswered: Could Iran have won if China had played with their full team?
The answer to that question came two years later in the form of Iran’s thumping 70-52 win in the gold-medal game of the 25th FIBA Asia Championship.
Hamed EHadadi, who had scored 31 points in Iran’s final triumph two years ago, was once again the leading scorer for his side with 19 points.
“There’s a huge difference between then and now,” said EHadadi.
“Playing against China’s first team in China is pressure enough. But we were determined to carry out what our coach told us,” he added.
EHadadi also collected 17 rebounds – 10 of them in defence.
Samad Nikkah played only 22:27 of the game, but had a telling effect with his eight points and a game-high six assists before that.
“This gold medal is more satisfying for a lot of reasons,” Samad said.
“Winning is one thing, but retaining the gold is a lot more difficult,” he added.
Never had any team dominated a gold medal game against China in the FIBA Asia Championship the way Veselin Matic’s team did on Sunday night in front a capacity crowd – which began to dissipate as the fourth quarter began.
As a matter of fact, this was the first time China lost a gold medal game in FIBA Asia Championship history – the hosts carried an impressive 14 gold-2 bronze haul from 17 appearances into the final.
“The whole idea of a final game to seize the initiative early,” said Matic.
“I’m happy things fell in place early for us. And we didn’t lose focus after that,” he added.
Iran raced into an early lead and consolidated their position as the game progressed; their mainstays fired in all cylinders; their bench did more than what was expected; the offensive plays moved with panache; and most importantly the defence played wonderfully tight on the Chinese superstars Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian.
“Basketball is a game of brains,” quipped an expert during the first half interval, when Iran led 42-25.
For sure, it was the brains of Matic that weaved a magical spell of defence to keep both Wang and Yi on a leash especially in the first half.
Yi was the only player with double-digit scores at that point, but had failed with seven of his 12 field attempts. And Wang was allowed only six looks at the goal.
Iran on the other hand, played with composure and determination and built their leads in spurts.
A classic example for Iranian determination came in the opening moments of the fourth quarter when the 180-cm Iranian point guard Mahdi Kamrani challenged the 212-cm Yi for a rebound, and succeeded in denying his much taller rival the ball, albeit by tapping it out.
“We were playing the game of our lives,” Kamrani said.
Wang topped the scoring for China with 24 points, but played with wonted form only in the third quarter when he scored 11 of them.
The third was the only period when Iran allowed China to keep the scoring level.
Yi added only one more point to his first half’s 10, in a woeful 29% field record (5/17 attempts).
Where China lacked was in support from the bench, when their mainstays struggled.
The highest scorer for China after Wang and Yi was Liu Wei with six points.
On the other hand, Oshin Sahakian scored 10, Javad Davari nine and Hamed Afagh eight.
Truly, the Iranian teamwork had outsmarted the power of the hosts.
ll Watch highlights of the game at FIBATV.com now - click here