Anthony Richardson scored 10 points and Takatoshi Furukawa sank a pair of key shots from behind the arch in the final quarter to help the Aisin Sea Horses come back from a 19-point deficit in their 73-70 win over the Toyota Motors Alvark in Game 1 of the Japan Basketball League Finals on Wednesday night.
“Toyota got off to a strong start at the beginning and I thought maybe it’d be tough to beat them tonight,” Aisin head coach Kimikazu Suzuki said after the game at Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annex. “But we ended up not giving up the game and it paid off.”
Entering the fourth quarter eight points down, the Sea Horses were resilient and rallied around Richardson and Furukawa.
With two minutes left, Aisin finally caught up to Toyota, tying the game at 64-64 with a Richardson layup, and soon after took a two-point lead on a pair of free throws by J.R. Sakuragi.
Toyota hit two tough 3s to cut the deficit to one point with 1.6 seconds left, but the Sea Horses protected their slim lead.
Sakuragi, the regular season MVP, led all scorers with 20 points, going 4-for-4 from the free throw line, followed by Richardson with 17.
“I was going to take shots without hesitation if there were chances,” said Furukawa, who had eight points. “I’m pleased I made them.”
Toyota led for the majority of the game, leading by as many as 19 at one point in the third quarter.
“We gave up a huge lead in the third quarter, but managed to come back with timely player substitutions,” Suzuki said. “You never know what will happen until the end, especially in the playoffs. It’s obviously important that you won’t give up (during) a game no matter what.”
Aisin captain and point guard Shinsuke Kashiwagi said, “We thought it would be huge to take the first game. We want to give the credit to ourselves for having come back from a deficit that was nearly 20 points.”
For the Alvark, center Philip Ricci had 14 points and guard/forward Yusuke Okada followed with 12 points.
Game 2 of the five-game series will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday.