Hoop team needs to rebuild after poor FIBA finish
Taiwan’s men’s national basketball team ended its journey prematurely in the 2015 FIBA Asian Championship with a 99-69 triumph over Kuwait on Monday. The large-margin victory, however, was definitely not something worth celebrating for Team Taiwan, competing under the name of Chinese Taipei, since the win only meant the team finished in 13th place in the biannual event, its worst record in history.
The embarrassing finish was something unexpected to not just local fans but to basketball commentators in Asia as well, who could hardly recognize it as the same team that had topped their much taller and stronger rivals, namely, China and the Philippines, in the 2013 FIBA Asian Championship.
Taiwan clinched the No.4 finish in the 2013 event, the best record for any national men’s team in over a decade.
What exactly went wrong during the squad’s FIBA Asian Championship trip this year so that the same team with almost exactly the same roster could end up with a huge difference in ranking?
To begin, the unsatisfactory result definitely had something to do with Taiwan’s hard luck as it had been put in the same bracket with Lebanon, Kazakhstan and Qatar when all four teams had finished in the top nine in the 2013 tourney.
Yet Taiwan has only itself to blame due to a poor performance during the Asian Championship.
Looking back at the tournament, the devastating 87-92 loss to Lebanon in its tourney opener was definitely a turning point for Taiwan that foreshadowed the team’s misfortune.
Team Taiwan lost the crucial match not just because its opponent outperformed it from the long-range shooting but also because the team failed to take advantage from the free throw line itself.
Taiwanese players missed eight consecutive free throws in the third quarter of the game just when they needed it the most. The team ultimately finished an embarrassing 45 percent success rate from the free throw line as it made only 10 out of a total 22 attempts.
The team made some improvement from the line in its second and all-important matchup against Kazakhstan.
However, a 7-25 first quarter set the tune early in the matchup — a huge deficit — and Taiwan failed to catch up throughout the whole game.
This ultimately led to another heartbreaking defeat for Taiwan in a final 73 to 84 score to officially kiss goodbye to its dream of advancing to the next round.
Despite already being eliminated from the next round, Team Taiwan gave out its most impressive performance during its final match against the unbeaten Qatar, a team that had already clinched first place in Group D.
Showing great resolve, the team trailed by eight points at half-time but emerged from the changing room full of determination and eventually took the win, even though it would not change the fact of Taiwan’s elimination.
The belated good performance, however, only showed what Taiwan could have achieved in the tournament.
As rightly put by local commentators, the Taiwan coaching staff’s delays in making timely adjustments was one thing that contributed to the team’s unsatisfactory finish.
Some also blamed the team’s apparent fatigue after playing too many exhibition matches before the official tourney. Let bygones be bygones. A worst finish in history also means local basketball authorities will have nothing to lose in making some major adjustments to the national team’s lineup in preparation for international competitions ahead, especially when most of the backbones of the squad are aging and will soon retire.
For instance, Lin Chih-chieh ( ), Taiwan’s team leader and one of Asia’s top players named to the All-Star Five at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, had already announced that this tournament would be his last representing Taiwan on the international stage.
Also, naturalized foreign import Quincy Davis, who averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds for Taiwan during the tournament will turn 34 at the 2017 FIBA Asian Championship.
It is now up to basketball authorities in Taiwan to introducing new blood or possibly recruit new naturalized players to make sure Taiwan’s hoops team can maintain its international competitiveness in years to come.