Missing one of their best players, the Wakayama Trians gave a wholehearted performance, and it paid off until the last seconds of the game.
But they still came up short and failed to gain the result they wanted.
With the score tied, Toshiba point guard Ryusei Shinoyama hit a game-winning fadeaway shot at the buzzer in the Brave Thunders’ 80-78 victory in Game 2 of the NBL Finals at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on Thursday.
With the win, Toshiba is now one victory away from capturing the NBL championship. The best-of-five series resumes on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the same venue.
Wakayama had to face Toshiba without Michael Parker, who injured his right knee in Wednesday’s Game 1, and trailed by as many as 14 points in the third quarter. But with spirited performances by Takuya Kawamura and Rick Rickert, the Western Conference club rallied to tie the contest at 78-78 as veteran player Hiroyuki Kinoshita sank a 3 pointer with 7.7 seconds left.
Moments later, however, the Brave Thunders retook the lead, and they gave Wakayama no time to catch up this time, with the Shinoyama jumper coming as the clock expired.
“We were told to use a high pick-and-roll with me and Nick (Fazekas),” Shinoyama said, when asked what kind of instruction Toshiba head coach Takuya Kita gave his players during the timeout before their last play. “With about one minute left, I missed a shot from a similar play but I felt good with it. So I thought it was going in this time.”
For Toshiba, sharpshooter Naoto Tsuji had a team-high 22 points and reserve Takahiro Kurihara followed with 14. League MVP and scoring champion Fazekas was held in check by Wakayama’s big inside players for the second straight night and finished with only 10 points. Shinoyama racked up seven points.
“Because we are one win away from the title, it’s not going to change how we play,” Shinoyama said. “We’ll do our defense, grab rebounds and (run) our team offense just as we’ve played all year.”
Parker, who averaged 23.2 points per game in the regular season, did not play. But Kawamura and Rickert stepped up for him and still gave the team a chance to win.
“No coaches would be happy to lose in such an important game like this,” Wakayama head coach Zeljko Pavlicevic said. “But while we missed Parker, I’m pleased about how our guys performed this game. We were forced to play a tough game, but we showed a lot of heart and fought until the very last second.”
Pavlicevic hinted that the American would not return to action for the remainder of the series.
“Our medical team says that it takes about two weeks for him to recover,” Pavlicevic said.
Kawamura stayed on the floor for the entire 40 minutes for the second consecutive game. The former JBL scoring champion went 6-for-9 from the 3-point line and finished with a game-high 33 points. Rickert, who played 38:56, followed with 21 points and 18 rebounds.
Kawamura admitted that he was fired up to make a big offensive impact due to Parker’s absence.
“I was going to take shots aggressively,” he said. “Because we would not have some 25 points Parker would produce. So I was going to score as many points as I could.”
Now the Trians, a first-year pro club that was previously a Panasonic-backed JBL squad, have their backs against the wall and will have to win the next three games to earn the championship trophy. But Kawamura stayed positive, believing that his team is capable of doing it.
“We played better today than in Game 1,” he said. “Now we have to sweep (the next three games), but we are not going to lose them. We’ll refresh our minds tomorrow and come back on Saturday.”