Brave Thunders beat Trians in Game 1 of NBL Finals

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Wakayama had the momentum in the opening half, but Toshiba prevailed in the latter as the Brave Thunders defeated the Trians 69-61 in Game 1 of the NBL Finals at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on Wednesday night.

Youngster Naoto Tsuji led the game with 21 points for Toshiba, while league MVP Nick Fazekas racked up 17 points, 19 rebounds and six assists. Mamadou Diouf chipped in with 14 points and three steals.

Wakayama, a first-year professional club, succeeded in putting the clamps on the Toshiba offense early and ended the first half with a 36-29 lead.

But the Brave Thunders regrouped in the second half, limiting the Trians offense to just 25 points, and came on top in the end.

Toshiba head coach Takuya Kita said after the game that Wakayama didn’t put a lot of pressure on his team defensively, but that actually made the Brave Thunders hesitant and caused bad offensive decisions.

“So I told (the team) to not hesitate to make shots in the second half,” Kita said. “And our guys adjusted to it well, and we managed to win.”

Meanwhile, it was a regrettable game for the Trians, who had all the momentum early and built a lead as big as 13 points in the second quarter.

Michael Parker, one of Wakayama’s go-to-guys, along with Japanese ace Takuya Kawamura, left the game after being hit on the right knee by a Brave Thunders player in the second quarter, which took some of the scoring ability from Wakayama.

According to bench boss Zeljko Pavlicevic, the American injured the ligament in his knee and could not take advantage of his jumping ability afterward.

The Croatian coach wasn’t sure how bad Parker’s injury was, but insisted that if the Trians were to be without him, they would have to be ready for a much tougher battle during the remainder of the best-of-five series.

“I’m worried whether he (can) play for us in the rest of the series,” Pavlicevic said of Parker, who ranked within the top three in points (23.2), rebounds (12.4) and field goal percentage (62.0) this season. “If we miss him, there will be a lot of gaps (with Toshiba).”

Parker ended up with 13 points, while Kawamura played all 40 minutes and had a team-high 20 points.

Game 2 will tip off at 7 p.m. on Thursday night at the same venue.