Once again, the Toyota Alvark encountered a fearless challenge from the Link Tochigi Brex. But the Alvark displayed better composure and the knack for winning a big game.
The Alvark defense prevailed in the second half, holding the Brex to just 20 points as Toyota crushed Tochigi 74-59 in the decisive third game of the NBL Eastern Conference semifinal series at Ota City General Gymnasium on Monday.
Toyota will face the Toshiba Brave Thunders in the conference finals this weekend at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
“All the credit goes to the players,” Toyota head coach Donald Beck said after the game. “I think we knew what they had to do. We have a style of basketball we play. And they knew they had to do that today. They came out here and did it.”
In a physical defensive battle, both clubs played evenly for the first three quarters. They were tied at 46-46 entering the final quarter.
But in the fourth quarter, the Alvark prevailed on offense and defense, getting the Brex off-balance and outscoring them 28-13 in the final period.
Keijuro Matsui said that the Alvark came into the game having reflected on their loss in Sunday’s Game 2, when they allowed Tochigi to score close to triple digits (95-81), and it paid off.
“We lacked our physicality defensively and let them have their shots too comfortably, especially in the third quarter,” said Matsui, who had a team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds. “But today, we played our defense much more aggressively.
The Alvark particularly did a better job of defending Link Tochigi’s money shooting. The Brex had shot 37.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in each of the first two contests of the series. But on Monday, they were 3-for-22 from 3-point range.
Beck stated that one of the key factors in the series was his team’s resiliency.
“I would like you to write about the resilience of our team, how much they had to overcome in this series,” he told reporters. “This series, for me, is like a pro-wrestling (match). I felt pushing and wagging uphill.”
Link Tochigi’s undisputed heart Yuta Tabuse played for 35:59 minutes, racking up 15 points, six rebounds and three steals to guide the team. Takatoshi Furukawa accounted for all three of his team’s 3-pointers in a 15-point performance.
Ryan Rossiter, who was the league’s fourth-leading scorer (21.3 points per game) during the regular season, was held to seven points by Toyota. He grabbed 14 rebounds.
“We just finished the game and I can think of nothing but our disappointment,” Tabuse said. “But Toyota was such a great group.
“We were winning in the first half, but we couldn’t keep that intact in the second. That was the difference.”
Entering the postseason, the Brex were thought to be the underdogs against Toyota. But Furukawa insisted that his team came to Tokyo to be the winner.
“We thought we would have a chance to win, and we believed that we would win,” Furukawa said. “We thought the series might go all the way to the third game, and we needed to play patiently.
“I’m just so disappointed right now, because we knew we could do it. For us, even if we played good games, it doesn’t mean anything if we lost in the end.”
Antanas Sireika, Link Tochigi’s Lithuanian bench boss, took the loss in stride saying, “(Toyota) played better and strong, and they won.”
But Sireika gave the biggest credit to Brex fans, the majority of whom traveled from Tochigi Prefecture to give their beloved club enormous energy.
“The Brex fans are super fans,” he said with a smile. “And they are the very best.”