VETERAN Lebanon forward Fadi El Khatib rolled back the years to produce arguably the standout individual performance of the FIBA Asia Cup so far – but the hosts were agonisingly edged out by New Zealand.
After Philippines’ heroics against China on day two, the tournament is very much alive, and hosts Lebanon played their part but went down 86-82 against the Tall Blacks in Group C.
El Khatib, who is 37, dropped 33 points, claimed 11 rebounds and had eight assists as his team shot 53.4 percent from the field.
In a game that ebbed and flowed, El Khatib caused New Zealand all kinds of problems in the paint, but the Oceanic newcomers withstood everything Lebanon threw at them.
In a performance of character that marked them out as potential champions, Shea Ili scored 22 points while Reuben Te Rangi contributed 15 points and eight boards.
In the other Group C game, South Korea delivering one of the great scoring performances of the FIBA Asia Cup – or its previous incarnation, the FIBA Asia Championship – by demolishing Kazakhstan 116-55.
Korea, beaten 72-66 by Lebanon in their opener, hit a massive 63.8 percent of their shots from the field as they led 50-26 at half-time and 82-37 after three quarters.
In a rounded team performance, Lee Jung-hyun top-scored with 19 points, while Park Chan-hee produced 14 assists and seven points as Mikhail Yevstigneyev’s 19 points and seven rebounds underlined the lack of productivity from the rest of the Kazakh team.
Australia, perhaps as was to be expected, breezed past Hong Kong in Group D, winning 99-58 behind a solid all-round team effort.
Being the dominant team in their group has allowed Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis to rotate his players, and six of them posted double-digit points, with Todd Blanchfield’s 18 leading the way. Mitch Creek was in fine form, too, scoring 15 points and nine rebounds, while Hong Kong were hindered by a 37.9 percent shooting success from the field.
Chinese Taipei, 77-62 winners against Hong Kong on day one, were – perhaps surprisingly – comprehensively beaten by Japan in the other Group D game.
Japan, who had shot 34.5 percent from the field against Australia, managed 47.9 percent against Chinese Taipei, winning 87-49 as their opponents hit only 28.6 percent of their field goals.
Japan were much smarter on both ends of the court, limiting Chinese Taipei to only five points in the second quarter, as Makoto Hiejima and Takatoshi Furukawa both knocked down 15 points.
Day three by numbers
Top points scorers: 33 – Fadi El Khatib (Lebanon), 22 – Shea Ili (New Zealand), 20 – Ali Haidar (Lebanon), 19 – Lee Jung-hyun (South Korea), Mikhail Yevstigneyev (Kazakhstan), 18 – Todd Blanchfield (Australia)
Top rebounders: 11 – Fadi El Khatib (Lebanon), 9 – Mitch Creek (Australia), 8 – Atsuya Ota (Japan), Reuben Te Rangi (New Zealand), Samuel Timmins (New Zealand)
Most assists: 14 – Park Chan-hee (South Korea), 8 – Fadi El Khatib (Lebanon), 5 – Jason Cadee (Australia), Lo Yi Ting (Hong Kong), Azim Yagodkin (Kazakhstan)
Best team field-goal percentage: 63.8 – South Korea
Worst team field-goal percentage: 28.6 – Chinese Taipei
Day four action (Friday, August 11)
Group A: India v Jordan, Syria v Iran; Group B: Qatar v China, Philippines v Iraq.